Some 32 Syrian refugees arrived in Hanover on Monday as part of the EU's new pact with Turkey. But the moral costs are being paid far away, on the Aegean Sea, where others are being deported back en masse.
Thirty-two Syrians, belonging to six families, landed at Hanover airport early on Monday morning on a flight from Istanbul. They were the first war refugees to profit from a contentious new deal hashed out in early March between the European Union and Turkey, which also allows en masse deportation of "illegal" refugees out of Greece and back to Turkey.
They were greeted by German police officers and helpers from Germany's government aid agency - the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) - and the Federal Migration Authority (BAMF).
The refugees did not speak to the reporters at the airport. "They're exhausted from the journey, they're glad they've finally arrived in Germany," said Hannah Buschmann, spokeswoman for Lower Saxony's state reception authority. "They didn't want to give any interviews, but they arrived well in Germany. Some of them need special medical treatment."
She added that there were no protests outside the center where the refugees arrived, though a man was photographed at the airport holding a sign that read "Please flee on. There's nowhere to live here. Refugees not welcome."
The controversial pact between the EU and Turkey will see all migrants who have traveled "illegally" to Greece since March 20 being forcibly deported back to Turkey. Exceptions will only be made for those who face persecution. For each Syrian the Turkish government takes in, the EU has agreed to take a Syrian into the EU - though only up to a limit of 72,000. Germany has agreed to take in 15,000 of these.
The 32 people were selected by Turkey's immigration authority and suggested to the United Nations refugee organization, UNHCR, who assess each individual, and puts together dossiers - to be sent to the EU member states - including each person's medical details and family ties, and an assessment of their "vulnerability."
The BAMF then chooses refugees according to Germany's own criteria, which are, according to an emailed statement sent to DW:
"a) preserving the unity of a family;
b) familial or other integration-promoting ties to Germany;
c) integration capacity (indicators: degree of school or vocational training; work experience, language skills, religion, low age)
d) degree of vulnerability"
"The 32 people who arrived in Hanover from Turkey this morning and at midday are mainly families," BAMF spokesman Christoph Sander told DW. "Over half of them are minors. Many of them need medical treatment. They will continue to receive this in their target municipalities."
Markus Löning, former human rights commissioner to the German government, was glad that Germany had finally opened a legal route for refugees to take. "We started having this kind of contingent of refugees several years ago, but this is a purely political decision," he told DW.
But he also pointed out that the German governments - both national and state - have always had the capacity to take in as many legal refugees as they wanted - with or without the Turkey deal.
"I think this is a tool that should be used a lot more - it certainly wouldn't resolve the problem, but it would take away some of the pressure," he said.
But despite the concessions to Turkey, which include accelerated EU accession talks, the real cost of the deal is not in Hanover - it's on the Aegean Sea, where other refugees are being mass deported back to Turkey, effectively stripped of their right to asylum and an individual hearing, all of which are guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN refugee convention, and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
"The problem with the deal is that there are no processes that are in any way up to rule-of-law standard - neither in Turkey or in Greece," said Löning. "Basically this is purely fear-driven: keep the people out, keep the people out, keep the people out."
As far as he is concerned, a continent of 500 million people with comparatively prosperous economies should be able to absorb a million refugees. "Even if another million came to the EU, that's easy to handle for the EU," he said. "We're rich, we have space, we have jobs, we have places where people can live - it was not well organized at the beginning, but you can improve organization. The European Union can receive more refugees."