Germany gets tough on refugees
Chancellor Angela Merkel was hailed as a hero when she threw open Germany's borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees. But over the following two years, with elections looming, the government toughened its stance on migrants. The FT's Guy Chazan reports on the impact.
Filmed by Steve Ager. Edited by Richard Topping. Produced by Seb Morton-Clark. (*Since this video was made, Hosein Rezayi has ceased working at Opitz Holzbau to attend a German language course.)
In spite of the horrors inflicted on his family back in Afghanistan, Hosein Rezayi should be one of Germany's refugee success stories. With the help of his social worker, he's managed to get a good job. His wife, Mojgan, is learning German and his children are all doing well in the local kindergarten.
But all that masks a grim reality. Soon, they may all have to leave Germany. Last year, Hussein's asylum request was rejected. The authorities say his home town is safe. So he, [INAUDIBLE], and their three young children now face deportation back to Afghanistan. And it's all down to the German government's shifting policies on asylum.
Two years ago, Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel was hailed as a hero, when she threw open the country's borders to hundreds and thousands of refugees. But in the ensuing months, public disquiet at the refugee influx grew. And so with national elections on the horizon, the government toughened its policies on migrants. Speaking in May, the chancellor defended the changes.
While Hosein and his family have found themselves caught up in the politics, most of the refugees who came here in 2015 and '16 have been given asylum. Of the 1 and 1/2 million people who have arrived in Germany since the start of 2014, more than half, 800,000, have been allowed to stay. Those whose requests for asylum are rejected can appeal. And they're often successful.
Ms. Merkel's critics argue that Germany's refugee influx has been a disaster. But most of the newcomers will end up unemployed and reliant on welfare handouts, but authorities reject that.
Few people better illustrate successful assimilation than Abdulaziz Dyab. Only the two years after writing him from Syria, he's studying mechatronics at the leading Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Alongside his studies, he's also become involved in a local amateur dramatics group.
Behind me, Abdulaziz Dyab is rehearsing in a play that will be performed in Karlsruhe later this year. It's a sign of just how well he's integrated into German society. When I first met him, about a year and a half ago, he'd only recently arrived in Germany. He'd crossed the Aegean Sea in a rubber dinghy, fearing for his life. Now he not only speaks fluent German, but he's enrolled in one of Germany's top universities.
It's a far cry from the life he was living back in Syria.
I was really, I would say the depressed, because I didn't have anything to do. There was no opportunities at all. There was no electricity, no water, nothing to do. And you know that you don't have a future. You lose every single hope you had.
I just used to sleep all day, wake up all night, go to the room, and do nothing, just literally nothing. Yeah, I'm really glad I made it here. Now I can just live like a normal person.
In some ways, Hosein Rezayi is also an example of integration. He has, at least, found work. And his boss says he'd like to employ more like him.
But in Hosein case, politics continues to trump economics. And his future in Germany hangs by a thread. NGOs are calling on the government to rethink its policy on deportation and to stop letting short-term political gain overshadow the desperate needs of some of these refugees.
Germany is pressing ahead with the historic job of integrating its hundreds and thousands of refugees, a task which will dominate the political agenda for decades. The lucky ones are busy rebuilding their lives in their new homeland. The unlucky ones are still waiting to learn the ultimate fate.