Syrians in Germany | Photo: H. Schmidt/dpa/picture-alliance
Syrians in Germany | Photo: H. Schmidt/dpa/picture-alliance

Around two-thirds of Syrians and Eritreans who have migrated to Germany in recent years say they are content, according to a new report. The study also found that Eritreans have an easier time than Syrians finding a job.

Between 2013 and 2019, around 790,000 Syrians and 74,000 Eritreans arrived in Germany. But what do we know about these women, men and children? With whom did they travel to Germany, how do they keep in touch with their relatives back home, and what is the structure of their families and support networks?

A new large-scale study about immigrants from Syria and Eritrea tries to answer these questions. One key finding is that the majority of Syrians and Eritreans (nearly 65%) are evidently "content or very content" with their life in Germany.

"Only a few feel socially isolated," according to the findings of the study, which was conducted by the German Federal Institute for Population Research (BIB) and the research center of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

Most Syrians and Eritreans also feel satisfied with their circles of friends and acquaintances; their satisfaction was particularly high when Germans were part of their private network.

"Contact with family members, friends and acquaintances or volunteers significantly supports the arrival process of women and men who fled from Syria and Eritrea," said Anja Stichs, research associate at the BAMF research center. Those contacts, however, needed to be found and developed first, Stichs stressed.

Currently, around 17% of all foreigners who live in Germany are immigrants from crisis areas of the Middle East as well as from Africa. Syrians make up the third-largest foreign population in Germany, while Eritrea is the second-most important African country of origin behind Morocco.

The representative, quantitative survey concluded a five-year joint project by BIB and BAMF about migration and mobility called "Forced Migration and Transnational Family Arrangements -- Eritrean and Syrian Refugees in Germany", or "TransFAR". The analyses are based on some 1,500 interviews with women and men from Syria and Eritrea who immigrated to Germany between 2013 and 2019. 

Also read: Asylum seekers from Eritrea and the long arm of the regime

Key findings

  • Decision to leave: According to the study, women and men from Eritrea tend to make the decision to leave their country alone, rather than with others; in contrast, only half of Syrian men and few Syrian women decide by themselves.
  • Migrating together: The migration itself, however, happens as a group more often than alone, with big differences between genders: A lot more men than women leave their country by themselves.
  • Job market: Eritreans have been better able to integrate in the working environment: 61% of Eritrean men and 14% of Eritrean women are employed, compared with 50% and 6% of Syrian men and women, respectively. One reason is that many Eritreans' jobs are in the low-wage sector.
More than 40,000 Eritreans with granted refugee status live in Germany | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/S.Gollnow
More than 40,000 Eritreans with granted refugee status live in Germany | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/S.Gollnow

  • Nuclear family: The bulk of respondents live in Germany with their closest family members, that is their spouse and their children. Transnational relationships or children living abroad are the exception. 
  • Extended family: Some parents(-in-law), siblings and other family members also live in Germany; among the surveyed Syrians, it is often siblings or parents.
  • Transnational structures: When looking at extended family ties, important transnational structures became visible that often extended across several countries. Especially respondents' siblings relatively often live somewhere other than their country of origin.
  • Contacting home: Syrian women and men cultivate regular contact with family members who live abroad via phone, email and social media. Among Eritrean women and men, in contrast, such contact is rare.
  • One-directional support: Financial, informational or practical support between respondents and their family members who live abroad tends to flow from Germany to the country of origin and to other countries, especially financial services, rather than the other way around.
  • Close contacts: The average respondent cultivates a close exchange with four to five people, with Syrians having more than Eritreans.
  • Importance of family members: Attachment figures among those surveyed are predominantly family members, particularly among Syrian women.
  • Importance of local contacts: Only a small share of attachment figures live abroad and therefore are a transnational contact.

Different migratory paths

Based on the survey, both Syrians and Eritreans reach Germany in very different ways: While around half of all Syrian respondents said they needed no longer than three months for their migration to Germany, Eritrean respondents' immigration is marked by "remarkably" long stays in other countries, sometimes lasting over a year.

According to the survey, one third of Syrian immigrants and two thirds of Eritrean ones were en route for over a year before they reached Germany.

Moreover, the lion's share of those surveyed said they left their home country due to armed conflict, fear of forced conscription or political, ethnic or religious persecution. Additional considerations to leave the country are family-related motives including worries about the future of their children.

The Syrian conflict has claimed more than 387,000 lives and displaced millions since the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011. During the first years, only a few refugees made their way to Germany; but during the course of 2015, their number began to grow -- many of them headed north via what became known as the Balkan route.

Also read: Safe but not sound -- Syrian refugees on a hard road to mental health

Eritrea, a country of some six million people which is separated by the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, is one of the poorest countries of the world. By the end of 2018, more than 507,000 Eritreans had fled the country, according to UN refugee agency UNHCR -- a little under 10% of the population. Eritrea is viewed as one of the world's most repressive nations.


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