Obstacles to Refugees’ Self-Reliance in Germany

Elizabeth Ekren

Forced Migration Review 58, June 2018, pp. 30-32



This article discusses the impediments to refugees’ employment and self-reliance in Germany. The majority of refugees and asylum seekers in Germany rely on government welfare. There are many practical barriers to work including: (a) access to government language courses, employment programs and job offers depends on an asylum seeker’s country of origin and likelihood of their application for asylum being accepted; (b) some localities still require citizen priority checks when refugees apply for jobs; (c) state and municipal residency requirements for refugees prohibit them from relocating unless they can find jobs in advance of moving that meet legally defined minimum salary requirements; (d) even lower-skilled jobs tend to require a working knowledge of German, and there are varying waiting times for access to a government language course which take 12-24 months to complete; (e) government language courses do not include specialized language training required for higher-skilled jobs; (f) long bureaucratic processes to review foreign qualifications; (g) crowded living conditions can cause noise and residential conflict that hamper daily routines and disrupt bathing, studying, eating and sleeping on a schedule that is compatible with working hours; (h) shelters in smaller cities are often poorly connected to public transport; and (i) once they report income, refugees become responsible for paying their own accommodation costs in shelters, which are frequently unaffordable. The author makes the case for integration policies that eliminate obstacles to employment and promote mutual long-term benefits for refugees and host communities, including greater flexibility in job equivalency reviews and skills testing, easier entry into lower skilled or in-demand jobs, and more opportunities for on-the-job learning of both skills and language. At a minimum, laws and processes regarding asylum applications, shelter transfers, residency status renewals, case appeals and deportations should be streamlined.