Their YES! topic
New challenges due to Corona and lockdown: How can we strengthen the integration of refugees?
by Paul Berbeé and Katia Gallegos Torres, ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research
It is now five years since almost one million asylum seekers arrived in Germany in autumn 2015. Since then, much has happened: Hundreds of thousands of asylum procedures have been completed, language and integration courses have been organised; many refugees have found a new home in Germany and have gained a foothold in the education system or the labour market. On the anniversary of Angela Merkel’s famous quote, „We can do it“, the assessment of the integration of refugees was predominantly positive: Compared to previous groups of refugees, integration had even been somewhat faster. However, whether this success story can be continued positively in the future seems uncertain due to the Corona pandemic, which has kept the world in suspense since spring 2020. Even though there are only a few reliable data and scientific findings available so far, there are many indications that refugees are particularly strongly affected by the economic impact of Covid19:
Even before the pandemic, refugees often worked in jobs that were particularly hard hit by the lockdown and increased unemployment (e.g. in the catering industry or in temporary employment agencies).
Immigrants suffer more than other population groups from the restrictions in public life: The school closures affect those children and young people particularly severely whose parents cannot support them and who do not have access to digital technology at home.
Many refugees live with many people in a confined space, making it difficult to comply with hygiene rules and leading to potential conflicts.
Due to the cancellation of classes, childcare, integration courses and many support services, personal contact with local teachers, volunteers, and other caregivers has become much more complex and rare. This is a big problem for language acquisition and cultural exchange.
Which actors play a role in refugee work, and what difficulties do they face? What innovative approaches can you concretely implement in your locality to reach refugees even in times of pandemic and to support them in a meaningful way?
In what ways should policy consider the specific needs of refugees during a global pandemic and a deep economic crisis? What new tools are needed to mitigate severe long-term damage?