Local Refugee Policy

Local authorities in Germany are facing new challenges as a result of the increased frequency of refugee arrivals. The people included under the term “refugees” represent an extremely heterogeneous group. Corresponding to the situations in the respective countries of origin, not only the motives of forced migration and experiences, but also the socio-structural and cultural framework conditions (such as language, level of education, age, religion) are enormously diverse. At the same time, the framework conditions for the reception and integration of refugees vary greatly in the municipalities. In addition to interpreters, legal counseling and general orientation services, language courses for adults and children are necessary. While labor market access is central for adults and older youth, refugee children place special demands on educational institutions. In addition, publicly accessible technical and social infrastructure is of particular importance (such as local public transport, communication options, medical and psychological care, etc.). Against this background, large cities appear particularly suitable for the integration of refugee families. On the other hand, especially in metropolitan areas, housing is scarce and the risk of segregation is increased. While public infrastructure is weaker in rural regions and small towns, decentralized accommodation succeeds much better (both in terms of vacancies and possible construction measures) due to the more generous spatial conditions. Furthermore, urban and rural areas largely differ in the way they deal with strangeness: While in rural areas the stranger (to me) stands out, in metropolitan areas it is surprising to encounter someone familiar (to me). Accordingly, experiences in dealing with new immigrants and, where applicable, the willingness to exchange (“welcome culture”) vary, which can have an impact on integration processes. Protecting refugee facilities from right-wing extremist attacks also seems to be more difficult in rural regions. On the other hand, the more traditional way of life and the generally more conservative milieu in rural areas could facilitate integration for certain refugee families.

In the “Local Refugee Policy” working group, expertise is to be pooled with regard to the different potentials of large cities, smaller towns and rural communities. The needs of different groups and life phases (seniors, adults, parents, young people, children) are to be differentiated, as the integration potential of spatial types can vary according to life phases. In addition to this general perspective, different municipal strategies, measures and other special features (architectural, urban planning, spatial, infrastructural, regional, etc.) can also be taken into account.

The aim is to enable a realistic assessment of the framework conditions of municipalities and cities for the accommodation and integration of refugees. Accordingly, targeted additional offers could also be derived from this and, if necessary, required modifications could be formulated at different levels.

Possible activities: Publication of an anthology, cooperation with municipalities, support of projects/dissertations on this topic, conference/lecture series.


Prof. Dr. Sybille Münch

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