Running the risk of violence, exploitation and imprisonment, 890,000 refugees arrived in Germany in 2015. A new survey provides the first insights into their stories and plans.
Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) released the study on Tuesday in cooperation with the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), part of the government's Federal Employment Agency (BA). It provides the first detailed overview of the refugees' plight, their motivations and first experiences in and of Germany.
One-third of all women and two-fifths of men reported physical abuse on their journeys, while 15 percent of women surveyed said they had suffered sexual assault.
Many respondents also said they had suffered from a lack of privacy and noise levels in community accommodation, Migration Researcher Nina Rother of the BAMF said, with many also saying they could do with more advice on living in Germany.
About 50,000 refugees found work in Germany between September 2015 and September 2016, and 30,000 earn enough to make them subject to social insurance contributions, with most jobs being in logistics, warehousing, and agriculture.
Some refugees have also become self-employed, while around 100,000 refugees are claiming unemployment benefits, the survey found.
The study also reported that only around one in eight have found jobs so far among those who arrived in 2015 up to and including January 2016. Many newcomers are still in the process of getting asylum applications assessed and so have limited access to the labor market.
Around 50 percent of migrants tended to have found employment after living in Germany for five years, at least 60 percent were in work after 10 years and 70 percent after 15 years, Herbert Brücker of the IAB said.
Among those who are not in work and had arrived in Germany since January 2013, over 75 percent said they "certainly" wanted a job and 15 percent said they "probably" wanted one.
A refugee from Syria who came to Germany in 2014 trains and works at the BMW factory in Munich, Germany.
Almost three-quarters of refugees aged 18-65 said they had gained work experience before arriving in Germany, with 13 percent having been employees in managerial positions.
The gross monthly salary of a German full-time employee in 2015 was just over 3,600 euros ($3,900), the survey noted. The average refugee paid on average about double this figure to get to Germany, and usually it took 35 days to get here - up to 49 days via a transit country.
Pull and push factors
"Above all, it is great need for protection and respect for human dignity that brought these people to Germany," said Rother.
For 43 percent of the interviewees, the German education system was also a reason to choose Germany as their target country, as well as the feeling of being welcome.
The most frequent reason given for fleeing their homelands was the fear of conflict and war (70 percent), with other motives being persecution (44 percent), discrimination (38 percent) and forced recruitment into militias (36 percent). Poor living conditions and the economic situation of the country of origin also were the key motivational factors for 39 percent and 32 percent of respondents, respectively.
Language and culture
Around 90 percent of refugees could not speak German when they arrived, the survey found, but added that most said they wanted to learn the language and find a job as quickly as possible.
"The importance of knowledge of German for their lives in Germany is very much appreciated by the refugees," Brücker said.
On average, refugees have established contact with three German people and five people from their home countries whom they did not previously know, it noted.
Some 58 percent of the interviewees have spent 10 years or more in school, education and study, while 37 percent attended secondary school, 31 percent middle school and 10 percent primary school, with 9 percent having no schooling. Almost three-quarters of respondents were employed before they fled their home country.
Some 96 percent said they support a democratic system and 92 percent are in favor of equal rights for women and men.
Asked if a religious leader should rule on the interpretation of the law, over 50 percent of those from Arab countries agreed, according to Jürgen Schupp, a social scientist at the IAB. Among the refugees surveyed, however, this was only 13 percent, and among Germans, 8 percent.
With regard to religious affiliation, there are slight differences in values, according to the researchers. Among the refugees are about 15 percent Christians, the rest split between different Islamic denominations. Overall, the attitude of Muslim refugees is more conservative on gender equality.
The survey of 2,349 refugees aged 18 and over was conducted between June and October 2016. It covers refugees who arrived in the country starting in 2013 through January 2016.
In the second part of the study, the sample of interviewees will be expanded to 4,500 people.
jbh/dr (Reuters, KNA)