Spaces of Refugee Flight in the Eastern Mediterranean
Edited by Natalia Ribas-Mateos
Chapter 5: Refugees from Syria as ‘guests’ in Germany: the moral economy of German refugee policy in 2014
Against the background of the Syrian refugee crisis, in 2014 the German government established special programmes that allowed Syrian residents of Germany to invite their relatives and friends to seek refuge in the country, thereby easing the procedure of visa application and flight. However, in some states of the Federal Republic of Germany this came at the price of privatizing costs for the stay, therefore excluding the invitees from the principles of the German welfare state. Syrian residents in Germany had to sign an agreement that they would cover all the expenses of their ‘guests’, who – unlike regular asylum seekers – were excluded from health insurance in some states (at least until they were officially granted asylum). In this case, the looming Syrian refugee crisis seems to have fostered a sort of renegotiation of the relationship between public and private space and accommodation, between individual and public responsibility. In another case, a special scholarship programme for Syrian students was established based on merit. Both programmes are discussed in this chapter as measures that treat refugees as ‘guests’ and therefore de-politicize and privatize their situation. This chapter first briefly outlines the historical development and current basic situation of asylum law in Germany in order to contextualize the subsequent description and analysis of these new programmes, highlighting how they reflect a broader strategy on the part of Europe’s largest economy and nation-state to deal with the current refugee crisis that is mostly affecting the countries on the margins of the European Union and Syria’s neighbours. The chapter then discusses the details of these programmes in the context of Hannah Arendt’s critique of human rights (1952) and Didier Fassin’s notion of a ‘moral economy of immigration policies’ (2005).
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