Germany's Syrian Refugee Integration Experiment

Lily Hindy



This article examines the effort in Germany to “integrate” roughly 750,000 Syrians who arrived after 2011, seeking refuge from the war. Based on the two pillars of so-called “integration classes” and vocational education, the massive program executed by the German government has so far managed to prove its detractors wrong by showing that the Syrian refugee population can help fill the void in their industrial sector left by a nationwide labor shortage. But it has also disempowered Syrians by placing them inside of an international refugee regime which denies them the right of choosing where to live and work, and how to contribute as full members of society. The article is based on site visits in the spring of 2018 and dozens of interviews with Syrian refugees, German nationals, and other foreign-born residents of all different socioeconomic backgrounds about their experiences with the integration process. It examines several aspects of Syrian integration into the German economy and society, particularly workforce integration, with a focus on the case of Bavaria; other routes to employment, such as through low-skill jobs, higher education, and program efforts by civil society and volunteer organizations; and societal integration, with a close look at some of the common threads in conversations with Germans and Syrians about how they are learning to live together. This report has been shortened and updated by the author for the Syrian Studies Association Bulletin. The original report, along with photographs and audio clips, was published September 6, 2018, by The Century Foundation, a progressive, independent think tank in New York, and supported in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Available at

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