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Germany

German NGO report urges facts over feelings in refugee debate

A Catholic relief organization has released a new report on the plight of refugees in Germany. The study, intended to push lawmakers into action, indicates that many newcomers to the country struggle to find employment.

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German charity publishes refugee report

The chair of the German affliate of Malteser International, Karl Prinz zu Löwenstein, could see the question coming: Why another migration study? Indeed, the German government has already released 11 reports on the topic. Speaking to reporters in Berlin on Wednesday, Prinz zu Löwenstein preempted the question with an answer: Because his organization's study - its first on this issue - was "unique." He was not looking to compete with others, he said.

The 112-page report by Malteser, the non-governmental relief organization of the Roman Catholic Order of Malta, is borne out of independent scientific analysis of migration issues and is "the result of Malteser's long-term experience supporting refugees," Prinz zu Löwenstein said. He explained the aim was to have a less emotionally charged discussion about migration, though he conceded: "Who is not moved by the fate of those in need?"

Malteser intentionally published the report, titled "Facts over sentiment," after Sunday's general elections in Germany in order to get its findings on the agenda during the new legislative period, Prinz zu Löwenstein said.

'A country of immigration'

"Germany is and was a country of immigration," said Lars Peter Feld, director of the Freiburg School of Economics' Walter Eucken Institute, which was responsible to for the scientific side of the report.

Feld pointed out that Germany has undergone several periods of migration since the end of World War Two. The country's previous experience with the issue shows that "participation in the labor market" is decisive when comes to successful integration, he said.

The report's findings indicate that migrants from non-European countries are not well integrated in the German labor market, Feld said. Obstacles include language, education and difficulty recognizing foreign degrees and certifications.

The most recent influx of refugees in 2015-16 had education and qualifications better suited for "ancillary work rather than high-skilled labor," he noted. New arrivals to Germany could more quickly integrate into the labor market if asylum procedures could be carried out more quickly, Feld said.

Asylum symbol (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Peters)

Finding work for refugees can be a difficult task for Germany's federal employment office

Breaking down crime statistics

Crime is another area that needs a closer look, Feld said. It is down overall compared to 20 years ago. However, the share of crimes allegedly committed by foreigners is up, from one-third in 1993 to 40 percent in 2016. The statistics include asylum-related violations, which German citizens cannot commit.

It would be incorrect to claim that "refugees have been a central part of the rise in criminality in the last two years," Feld said, explaining that there are significant differences based on where people come from. For example, he pointed to the 11 percent of crimes committed by non-Germans that were carried out by those from North African countries, "although they are only 2 percent of migrants." Those from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were less likely, relative to their numbers, to commit crimes than those from other countries.

When it comes to imposing a limit on the number of refugees allowed into Germany, Feld said he was opposed, calling the issue a fake debate.

Prinz zu Löwenstein sees the issue as something the German government should address, not his organization. The focus has to remain on a "truly reasonable" way to integrate new arrivals, he said.

The Malteser Germany chair said his organization would keep watch of integration efforts, which will remain a social challenge. This is why, he added, the organization plans to put its years of practical experience to use by "continuing to contribute objective reporting to the debate."

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