Only a tiny fraction of the Syrians who have fled as refugees to Germany have returned to their homeland using German government financial aid.
In 2017, 199 Syrian refugees in Germany applied for financial support for their "voluntary departure" back to Syria, according to a response from the German government to the Green party.
In 2018, the federal government subsidized the return of 466 people to Syria. In the first quarter of this year, 77 refugees sought this form of assistance.
The official reasons for returning are not statistically recorded, but "homesickness, integration difficulties or the illness of family members" were often cited as reasons in the government answer. Most applications for financial assistance to return to Syria in 2018 came from refugees living in the states of Lower Saxony, Bavaria or Hesse.
Most applications are forwarded by the Foreigners' Offices. In rare cases, refugees also turn to associations and charities who then take care of the paperwork.
Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011, about 5.7 million people have left the country. Some 780,000 of those were admitted to Germany.
The German government shares the assessment of the UN refugee agency UNHCR that the conditions for a secure and dignified return of refugees for Syria are not yet given. The government also insists that it does not encourage Syrian nationals to return, and there is an ongoing ban on deportations to the country. For those wishing to return, financial help is available.
Fewer migrants leave Germany overall
In 2018, Germany saw a big drop in the number of migrants accepting financial support to leave the country voluntarily. Last year, 15,962 people left under the program, almost half as many as in 2017 and about a third of the number the year before that, according to the German interior ministry. While voluntary repatriation has almost halved, forced returns have also slightly declined.
Under a German government program, asylum seekers and those who have been granted certain forms of protection in Germany are eligible for financial assistance if they choose to return to their country of origin or another country, but can't afford to do so. The program covers travel costs, medical fees and financial start-up assistance. The type and amount of support depends on the person's nationality and other criteria.
One reason for the decline in forced returns is the costly and difficult nature of deportations. Many of them go wrong while in progress and have to be abandoned. In 2018, deportees resisted in more than 1,630 cases – mostly Syrians, Nigerians and Somalis. In over 500 cases, the airline company or crew refused to participate in deportations.
Because of the security staff needed to accompany the deportees, forced returns reportedly cost the country €8.2 billion last year alone. At the end of 2018, just under 236,000 people in Germany had "removal orders," but 180,124 of those were given a suspension on humanitarian grounds.
With material from dpa