Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Refugee resettlement: long term policy versus immediate rescue

As refugees spill out of Syria and elsewhere, the first, immediate task is rescue. It is also a call to think about longer term policies.  Germany today is in the throes of rescuing refugees who were previously stranded in Hungary. But a look at German resettlement policy suggests that in the longer term, nations around the world should be thinking about how to match refugees to destinations.

That is to say, there’s a difference between stanching the bleeding now (which may involve matching resources to needs in an urgent manner), and thinking about what resettlement policy should look like in the steady state.

Note that, because current policy calls for refugees to remain in their country of 'first asylum,' both the refugees and the Hungarian authorities have an interest in having the refugees pass through Hungary undocumented. So there isn’t an opportunity for refugees to be registered where they first arrive, and then be processed in some orderly manner to final destinations…

Here's a recent NY Times article on the current reception of those refugees who transited Hungary.
German Quota System Highlights Possible Path and Pitfalls for Handling Crisis

"Throughout the night and into the morning, a well-oiled German bureaucratic machine had been at work moving the new arrivals from Bavaria to cities across the country: Some 1,500 to Dortmund, 650 to Braunschweig, and 470 to Saalfeld, among others.

"Over two days, nearly half of about 20,000 new arrivals had already been moved on.
"But all the movement by bus and train to unfamiliar locations has also created anxiety among some of the migrants.

“They take us to different cities, but we don’t know when or where,” said Ms. Hamawi, a 35-year-old native of Damascus, Syria, as she gathered bottles of water and a toy rabbit that volunteers gave her youngest son, Nadir, 8.

Germany is in many ways a laboratory of how the European Union could jointly tackle the migrant crisis. Key to the seamless response so far has been a quota system that has been in place for decades and distributes migrants across the country’s states according to their widely varying populations and economic prowess — much like the system Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed for the 28 member states of the European Union.

But if the German quota system highlights a possible path to a European solution, it is also laying bare the many pitfalls along the way.

Like many other migrants waiting to find out where in Germany they will end up, Ms. Hamawi has a clear preference: She would like to stay in Munich, perhaps go to Frankfurt or Hamburg or Stuttgart. After hearing from her husband, who fled Syria two years ago and is now in Dresden, about neo-Nazi arson attacks on asylum homes and the anti-Islamic movement that was born there a year ago, there is little that draws her to eastern Germany.
"Once applicants have been granted asylum they are free to settle anywhere in the country where they can find a job or a support system, although during the initial six months to a year when a decision on their asylum status is pending, most states require them to remain in the city where they applied.

"Some migrants, having risked their lives to come this far, were clearly not prepared to wait that long. Nor were they prepared, in some cases, to go just anywhere they were sent.

"Small groups of them left the temporary camp in the conference center — one of several across Munich and Bavaria — throughout Sunday and headed for Munich Central Station to make their own way to a city of their choice, allowed under the current exceptional circumstances."

Here's a link to the recent op ed I posted to Politico.eu on refugee resettlement as a matching problem: Migrants aren’t widgets

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