Migrants and refugees at a train station in Munich
Migrants and refugees at a train station in Munich

The largest city in Bavaria has faced numerous challenges in dealing with migrant and refugee-related issues since 2012. The city has achieved some success in supporting integration, but there is still much to do.

The Bavarian city of Munich received 21,541 refugees between 2012 and 2016, according to Munich-based organizations dedicated to assisting refugee with integration. The organizations say the work that has been done in the city has been successful.

Nearly two-thirds of the refugees who came to Munich between 2012 and 2016 have received a residence or re-settlement permit. The Bavarian Immigration Office says that 65 percent of people who have been granted refugee status have applied for family reunification.

"Refugees are part of this society from day one, regardless of whether they can or want to stay here permanently," social spokeswoman, Dorothee Schiwy, told Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Munich also opened a new aid center for refugees. The Refugee Stairway Center offers support to those still trying to find their way in the new country, be it accompanying them to appointments or helping people to deal with the traumas of the past.

Sarah Weiss, who heads the project, told Süddeutsche Zeitung the facility is "a companion for refugees who need special support."

Still work to be done

Munich's city council will see a new integration plan introduced on Tuesday. The plan has five steps to further integrate those that may have been left behind.

While Munich has extended its support services for refugee children and social services for all migrants and refugees beyond the minimum mandated by the state, by the end of 2017, there were still thousands of refugees living in public housing. The incoming integration plan states that the city will provide housing for 3,000 people with low incomes and will last to 2020.

Education and parenting are the second and third pillars in the integration plan. More than half Munich's refugees are under 25 years old, meaning that education is critical for integration. Few refugee children have access to daycare centers, and few children transition to attending school with German children. The city plans to put in place intensive German courses in order to accelerate children's integration into the school system.

Many refugees do not have "the necessary learning skills" according to the integration plan, despite the fact that an increased number of refugees have started training. The report says there will be 118 vocational integration and language courses in the city, and 1,400 spots will be made available. This will assist in integrating those who may have fallen through the cracks, be it due to unsecured living perspectives, depression or drug abuse.

The final point of the integration plan is helping people to enter the job market. In Munich, 7,600 migrants and refugees over 25 are allowed to work without restrictions. But education levels are often very low for incoming migrants and refugees. Most migrants and refugees in Munich (60 percent) have no formal education and nearly that same number (59 percent) do not understand any German, according to the integration plan. 

The job market in Munich demands well qualified specialists, but migrants and refugees want to make quick money to support their families, meaning there is not much willingness to commit to long-term training classes that give migrants and refugees formal qualifications. Munich hopes the vocational courses will help them further achieve better and more useful qualifications.


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