As the Syrian refugee crisis begins to shrink from the headlines, thanks not only to apathy but also to terrorism and the craziest presidential election in U.S. History, I thought I would take a minute to fill you in on the status of the situation in one region in Germany. As is the norm for us here at Germerican Denglish I won’t be discussing my opinion of the situation or what I think should happen, just what I see, hear, and read in the local area.
First, let’s start with some facts of the current situation as reported by the Trierischer Volksfreund newspaper:
- 59,887 – Total number of refugees living in Rheinland-Pfalz (RLP)
- 10,390 – Number of refugees formerly living in RLP that have left the country
- 4000 – Number of refugees still living in refugee camps
- 1/100 – The ratio of refugees to citizens when they are placed in local communities
- 30 – Average age of a refugee in RLP
- 1200 – Number of minor refugess in RLP
- 1150 – Number of refugees in the city of Trier who want to work
- 530 – Number of those from #7 who are without a job
- 9 million+ – Amount the city of Trier alone has spent on refugees
Now I’m not going to pretend that I am an expert at analyzing those numbers to tell you what they mean. What I can tell you is this: the Germans in this area are doing everything they can to help the refugees get settled comfortably. I would say that when only 4,000 of the almost 60,000 are still in refugee camps that they are doing a pretty good job. There are language and culture courses galore to be taken advantage of, and even training and education to help the newly arrived become productive members of the workplace.
What about all of the talk of a rise in crime due to refugees? We’ve all heard the horror stories about the sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, right? Does that mean that all refugees are rapists? No. Does that mean that some refugees might need to understand that the display of legs, shoulders, and cleavage is not a sexual invitation? Apparently. A few incidents out of the hundreds of thousands of refugees does not a trend make though. In Trier the story is this: in 2015 the number of criminal incidents by non-Germans rose by approximately 3,000 (24%). Out of that number there were 807 incidents of individuals illegally entering or staying in Germany (that is without a Visa or refugee/asylum application or status). Another 995 incidents have been directly linked to refugees with 439 pick pocketing and 223 assault incidents, most of which actually occurred within refugee camps according to the Trier police department. That means that refugees accounted directly for 4% of the 41,870 illegal incidents in Trier in 2015, with apparently less than 1% of those involving someone other than another refugee.
And what does the average citizen have to say about refugees? While I have no numbers or surveys to answer this question, I can tell you what I have heard myself. Some people are concerned about crime, some about their culture, some about employment and the economy, some about the cost, and some about an apparent ingratefulness on the part of some refugees. But the single most overwhelming opinion I seem to encounter is this…….most Germans seem glad to help those in need but feel like this was all undertaken without a solid plan and that more thought should have been put into setting a limit to their generosity, especially when other countries in the European Union are barely helping and some not at all.
One thing is for sure: this is an incredibly complicated situation that requires an equally complicated solution. I would imagine though that the average refugee is a normal person like you or me who is simply looking for a better life for their family than is currently possible in their war-torn homeland, and the average German is willing to help (a reasonable amount of) them do that as long as integration is part of the plan.
*All numbers and statistics are as reported in the Trierischer Volksfreund article titled “Wer de neuen Nachbarn sind”, published on 30 July, 2016