This fall, Germany’s administration broke apart from the position held by its neighbors and other members of the European Union on the subject of a pressing humanitarian aid crisis: Syrian refugees. Germany became the first country on the continent to accept a large contingent of asylum-seekers from the war-torn country.
The pilot program will allow 5,000 Syrians to relocate over the course of one year, thanks to the organisation of 25 private flights by the German government. Counting those who will receive this assistance and other refugees who migrate on their own, estimates place the number of people to flee Syria in recent years for Europe at 17,000+ by the beginning of 2014.
Germany and the UNHCR are lobbying other European members to contribute space for the refugees or other resources to help smooth their resettlement.
The UNHCR, or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, selected the initial group of refugees according to a number of factors.
Those considered “particularly vulnerable,” such as single mothers, minorities and the chronically ill were atop the list.
For the purposes of integration, German speakers had an advantage over other applicants. Additional consideration was also given to applicants with a connection to Germany, such as time spent in the country studying or family currently located there.
Finally a certain number of spots went to the intellectual, academic and professional elite of Syria, judged the group most important for the reconstruction of the country after the resolution of the current crisis.
The first group landed in Hannover a few weeks ago, sending a message the German government wants its neighbors to notice. The government then transported them to Friedland, a transit camp where the refugees spend two weeks.
Germany is no stranger to waves of refugees, as it decided to welcome 300,000 during the wars in the Balkans of the early 1990s. Nearly a million refugees have passed through Friedland over its history.
Given the basics of shelter and food, the newcomers attend German language and culture classes every day. Administratively a step ahead of other asylum-seekers, the Syrians are granted instant refugee status, which means they can start working whenever they want.
After the two week integration and orientation period, the different states of Germany each accept a number of refugees for permanent placement.
Certainly Germany’s actions represent a noble gesture, but this recent decision risks being seen as merely “a drop in the bucket.” This is because some two million Syrians seek asylum abroad, in addition to the four million already internally displaced, according to figures released by the United Nations.
This represents one third of the country’s population, a figure the UN estimates could reach as high as one half by the end of the year. More than 700,000 Syrians have officially registered as refugees in Lebanon. This has overwhelmed Syria’s neighbor, a country normally with a population of 4.5 million.
Unfortunate for the refugees, airline regulations impose a 44 pound limit per person for luggage. Within this limit, refugees must pack all the personal items and effects intended to prepare them for a stay of two years in Germany. Many left their homes in a rush, fleeing violence or destruction, without the time to pack up properly.
Often because of these constraints, refugees come to airport with little more than the clothes on their backs. For these reasons, it’s essential for countries planning to welcome refugees must prepare adequate infrastructure and supplies in advance.
While the core of our activities stem from the hotel industry or public institutions like hospitals and schools, Caractere already has experience in the field of humanitarian aid. Thus, it was with great honor that Caractere recently received a substantial order from Germany to help welcome Syrian refugees in their transition to life in Europe.
Some of our most popular items to deal with natural disasters and large population migrations include those from our hotel supply unit, including warm blankets, sleeping bags and children’s linens. Caractere also manufactures a variety of uniforms and work outfits to properly equip the staff and volunteers associated with the reception of refugees.
To learn more about the different types of products that can help with the reception of refugees, check out the English language version of the website for Caractere Paris, Disposable Linen!
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Amos, Deborah. “For Some Syrian Refugees, A New Home In Germany.” NPR, Sept. 12, 2013.
Heine, Friederike. “Gateway to Freedom: Camp Preps Syrian Refugees for German Life.” Der Spiegel, Oct. 11, 2013.