The evening of 4 September 2015 was a turning point. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the then Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann had decided in a telephone call that they wanted to take in a few thousand refugees who arrived via Hungary for humanitarian reasons. Soon it was more than ten thousand a day.

"We can do it," said Chancellor Angela Merkel a few days earlier in the Federal Press Conference - a sentence of great significance, on the one hand Europe-wide for the German welcome culture towards the refugees, on the other hand caused violent political conflicts. The quote in its entirety read: "Germany is a strong country, the motive with which we approach these things must be: We have done so much - we can do it!"

These days, the historical events are the fourth year in history. ZEIT ONLINE takes this as an opportunity to take stock. How many people actually came to Germany and how many stayed? What did the integration cost? And how is it today, four years later, the welcome culture?

How did the numbers of refugees develop?

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has been photographed for a selfie with a refugee after visiting a reception center for asylum seekers in Berlin-Spandau. © Bernd of Jutrczenka / dpa

In those days in September 2015, Munich Central Station is a hotspot. Families with babies and toddlers, the elderly, the sick - thousands arrive daily. Everything is missing: sleeping places, food, clothing, regulated procedures. The police are in constant use. And the misery touches many locals. They help, greet the refugees with gifts, donate bags full of clothing, organize food and drinks, and offer overnight accommodation. Chaos also prevails in front of the Berlin State Office for Health and Social Affairs, called Lageso. Here, up to a thousand people wait weeks in the heat. The Lageso becomes the symbol for what is going badly: overburdened authorities, beating security, great overburdening. At this time it is not foreseeable how many people will come.

A government forecast from August 2015 assumes 800,000 new arrivals by the end of the year. Many expect 1.5 million or more. Soon, the parties are arguing about how to deal with the refugees. Particularly violent are the discussions between the CDU and the CSU. The then CSU boss Horst Seehofer calls 2016 a "cap" of not more than 200,000 people per year. And he wants "anchor centers" where refugees have to stay until they have decided on their asylum application, and in which the rejected can be deported directly from there.

Four years later, the balance sheet is as follows: In fact, Germany experienced one of the largest immigration movements of the postwar period in 2015. There were about 890,000 people that year, so this number was quite close to August's government forecast. Because the authorities were overwhelmed at the time, 2015, only fewer than 500,000 people could apply for asylum, and one year later the number of applicants rose to 750,000. Fewer people came in 2016, many of them who had already arrived in 2015, but were only then able to submit their application. At the end of 2018, there were a total of just under 1.7 million people seeking protection in Germany, including asylum seekers, asylum seekers and rejected asylum seekers, some of whom had already been in the Federal Republic before 2015.

The foreclosure of Europe has led to less than 200,000 refugees coming to Germany in 2017, since then the numbers have fallen further, in 2018 just under 162,000 asylum applications were made. That's how many refugees came to Germany every year, just like a big city has inhabitants. But one must also remember that about 1.2 million people emigrate from the Federal Republic every year.

Most people still come from Syria, followed by Iraq. The Syrians have the best chance of remaining, more than 90 percent of them receive refugee protection.

Because fewer people are coming and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has been greatly expanded, the processing time for asylum applications has also dropped considerably. On average, a petition is made within six months, many of the people who came to Germany in 2015 and 2016 had to wait longer than 18 months.

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How does integration work in the labor market?

2018: A trainee from Nigeria works in a bakery in Reutlingen. © Thomas Niedermueller / Getty Images

Young men under the age of 30 are still the largest group of newcomers, as well as children and adolescents. Migration researchers see this as a great opportunity for the German labor market, where workers and skilled workers are sought in many places. According to a study by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), young refugees can often rely on their vocational training, and many would also have "a high level of motivation and a strong motivation to learn". Not to mention the minors, who have good chances to get a job because they are going through the German education system. In addition, people from Syria and Iraq often have a high level of education, which makes integration easier. All of this is good news for the job market. And so it is not surprising that the head of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) Detlef Scheele reported that integration in the labor market is even better than expected.

Nevertheless, according to the BA, the employment rate of refugees is still relatively low four years after the start of the major immigration. Currently, it is 28 percent. The political goal is to achieve an employment rate of 45 percent by 2025. For comparison: the employment rate of Germans is 62.4 percent.

Refugees are above average in the low paid sector. They fill a gap where labor is missing. This applies not only to jobs for semi-skilled and unskilled workers (such as in warehousing and logistics, in building cleaning or in the hospitality industry), but also in the apprenticeship market. A good 40,000 refugees are currently undergoing vocational training. One in three of the working refugees also works in temporary employment.

The truth is: Almost a million people (992,166 people) still receive Hartz IV, many of them are children or seniors, but at least half a million are registered as seeking employment. While unemployment rates for the Germans were 4.8 percent in May and 12.3 percent for all foreigners, they were 34.9 percent among refugees.

The arrival on the job market therefore lasts. But labor market researchers had expected exactly that. The reason for this is that, in spite of a shorter processing time, asylum procedures are less frequent, as well as the need to learn the language, as well as recognizing or completing school or vocational qualifications. But chances are good that the numbers will improve in the future. According to an IAB study, over 50 percent of immigrants find a job after five years.

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What is the housing situation of the refugees?

Also in terms of housing, many have arrived. In 2015 the situation was different: in 2015, gymnasiums were converted into initial reception centers. Because that was often not enough, tent cities were built in which tens of thousands were kept until winter. Hamburg and Berlin even converted empty commercial real estate into refugee accommodation.

Today it's almost over. Although newly arriving asylum seekers will continue to be accommodated in a so-called first reception center. There, however, they usually stay for a maximum of six months. Thereafter, they live either in a shared accommodation or in their own apartment. In the first three years of their stay in Germany, the federal states can stipulate to the refugees where they have to live (residence permit). Only those who have a job may choose their place of residence beforehand.

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What has the integration cost so far?

This question is very difficult to answer. It is hardly possible to determine the exact costs, as federal, state and local governments take on different services and refugees also receive benefits from the state, which are paid for many other groups of persons - child benefit, for example.

In 2015, economists outdid forecasts on how high the costs would be. Time was 50 billion alone for accommodation, food and language courses in the first two years, sometimes almost one trillion euros in the first six years.

The most likely to determine the expenditure of the federal government. Federal funds are used to pay for the asylum procedures handled by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees - as well as all the measures and services provided by the Federal Employment Agency for integration into the labor market. The federal states and municipalities also organize accommodation and integration on site, for which the federal government grants subsidies. In 2018, the federal states and municipalities received around 7.5 billion euros from the federal government for refugee and integration costs. However, this also pays for things that, like social housing or the expansion of child care, benefit other groups of the population, and not just refugees.

In addition, the federal government issued a further 15.5 billion euros in 2018 for its tasks. However, € 7.9 billion of this was spent on controlling the cause of flight, so it was not spent on refugees in Germany. For comparison, the total federal expenditure was 341 billion euros.

Experts from the Institute for the World Economy (IfW) had initially assumed that at least 20 billion euros would incur costs per year. The then Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had even considered an EU-wide fuel tax in order to compensate for the cost of the refugee crisis. This was not necessary, as the balance sheet shows: despite spending on integration, Germany always generated a budget surplus. Also, the refugee reserve formed by the Federal Government in the amount of now 35 billion euros has not been touched.

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Has crime increased in Germany due to the influx of refugees?

Right-wing populists and neo-Nazis always use or supposedly use criminal refugees for their demands for a sharper asylum policy. At the latest after the Cologne New Year's Eve 2015 hundreds of men, including many asylum seekers, had harassed and robbed women, was also discussed in the general public, the danger emanating from the refugees. Only in July of this year, the AFD faction in the Bundestag again made a small inquiry on crime, which is still unanswered.

Most of the data are publicly available long ago: Comparing all crimes recorded in the Police Crime Statistics (PKS) from 2013 with the most recent figures from 2018 shows that more offenses were registered before the refugees' arrival (about 5, 96 million) than last year (about 5.56 million). In between, however, there was an increase in the years 2014, 2015 and 2016.

This increase, the Federal Criminal Police Office notes in its report on PKS 2015, is almost exclusively attributable to immigration violations, ie unauthorized entry or unauthorized stay. These are crimes that Germans can not commit. For the first time in 2015, the number of crimes was thus adjusted for the violations of immigration law: the previously visible increase subsequently disappeared. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of all crimes remained unchanged at around 5.93 million. In 2016, it even dropped to 5.88 million.

The debate about allegedly more criminal refugees is mainly about violent crime. This, too, had risen slightly in the meantime. At the beginning of 2018, criminologists Christian Pfeiffer, Dirk Baier and Sören Kliem had shown that the increase in violence between 2014 and 2016 was, in fact, largely attributable to refugees, at least in Lower Saxony. However, the total number of violent acts nationwide since 2017 again slightly. In 2018, it was only slightly higher than in 2013 and is at a much lower level than in 2012. However, this decline is more due to the fact that German nationals committed fewer offenses (-2.3 percent). By contrast, the number of violent attacks on refugees increased slightly from 2017 to 2018 by 1.4 per cent or 390 cases.

Violent crime scares many people for understandable reasons. However, it is often disregarded that only three percent of all registered offenses are violent acts.

If you look at the time since the arrival of the refugees, it becomes clear: Overall, the crime has not increased. But it is possible that she would have fallen even more without her move.

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How is the social integration of the refugees going?

Integration also means building a social life. Find friends, start a family. An indication that refugees can imagine a future in their new home is the desire to marry. Especially for people from Syria or Afghanistan, the countries from which most people have come to us, the marriage has a high social value. "We marry before we can be a real couple," says Krishma. The 23-year-old Afghan woman lives in Berlin and has been engaged for three weeks. In the German course she met Omar, a young man from Kunduz. Now they want to marry. But before that Krishma has much to do.

Omar and Krishma got engaged. © private

Anyone who is registered, of legal age and capable of acting in Germany may marry, including refugees and asylum seekers. Only it is a lot more expensive for foreign citizens than for Germans. Many papers must be issued by the country of origin and then translated into German. Krishma needs her Afghan passport, her birth certificate and a so-called marriage certificate. In it, the Afghan authorities have to confirm that Krishma is single and that there is nothing against marriage. She has none of these documents. So far, all she has is a tazkira, an Afghan ID card.

How many refugees marry in Germany, we do not know. But the registry offices record the nationalities of the spouses. And at least one thing is clear: since more Afghans live with us, more of them are getting married. And not only the numbers of those marrying a German or a German, which gives them a secure residence status. But also the number of Afghan-Afghan marriages. In 2018 a total of 410 Afghans were married, 225 of whom married a German or a German, 144 an Afghan partner.

Also, the marriages of Syrians have increased significantly since 2015. In 2018, 2,780 Syrians were married, most of whom were partners or partners from the same country of origin: 988 Syrians married a Syrian. 602 German-Syrian marriages were closed and 202 Syrians married people from other countries.

A marriage is a promise. Often associated with the hope of a good, shared future. Krishma and Omar want to start a family in Germany. So far, Krishma has taken care of the concerns of her parents and brothers. "Now I want to do something for myself," she says.

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How did the escaped children arrive at school?

Integration can only succeed if the children are well integrated into the school. Germany had once made many mistakes with the children of the so-called guest workers. It was not the goal at the time to teach children among German children, because they thought they would soon leave the country again. How did it go with the refugee children? The challenges were big anyway.

In 2015, around 200,000 school-age refugees arrived in Germany, and in 2016 around 130,000 more were added. Schools have done a tremendous job: More than 90 percent of these school-age children had already arrived in the local education system in 2016 - a short analysis of the 2019 research center Migration, Integration and Asylum of the BAMF shows. Two-thirds of the refugee children were taught at the general education schools, 16 percent did a vocational training or learned at a vocational school. And all this despite the lack of space, of teachers, of materials. Much has been made up with engagement. Gradually, many federal states have, according to the media service integration for the immigrant children, also hired new teachers for "German as a second language". In Schleswig-Holstein, for example, their number has nearly doubled by 2017, for example.

And yet, by far not everything is perfect. Many of the refugee children first attend an introductory, language learning, welcome or international class (they are called differently in the federal states), where they learn German before moving on to regular lessons. At the beginning there were 13-year-old illiterates and six-year-olds from educated families. Sometimes the children and adolescents stayed there for one or even two years and longer. And that can be a problem.

Not infrequently it happens that the children in the schools run side by side, for example, forget about the sports festival and so remain in the schoolyard the outsiders - and therefore do not speak enough German with the other children. The transition into classes then often runs bumpy.

In some federal states, children are immediately admitted to the standard classes and, incidentally, receive more or less German lessons. The smaller the children are, the better this works. Some schools have opted for mixed forms: the children are then right at the beginning in certain subjects such as sports, music and English in the rules classes, to belong to the same. The rest of the time they learn German. They then gradually change in the other subjects in the classes. Language learning researchers such as Michael Becker-Mrotzek, director of the Mercator Institute for Language Promotion and German as a Second Language at UniKöln, consider this form of integration to be particularly promising.

Problems show up - not surprisingly - especially in the older children. Thus, according to a brief analysis of the BAMF many young people over 15 years did not even in the normal lessons. Refugee teenagers also significantly more often than other children in Germany at the Hauptschule. No wonder, they often have worse conditions, have rarely been able to visit a school in one's home country, have had traumatic experiences there or on the run, or have to live in Germany without their parents.

But even with the refugee children, the largest mango of the German education system shows: Who has educated parents, comes to the gymnasium, the others have fewer opportunities.

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What is the presence of refugees at universities?

Each semester, several thousand refugees enroll at German universities and colleges. In the winter semester 2018/19 alone, there were 3,788. That's about 18 times more than in the winter semester 2015/16, when only 205 freshmen were refugees. And the trend is still rising: between the winter semesters 2017/18 and 2018/19, the number of newly enrolled refugees has almost tripled. Seventeen percent of the refugees had already completed studies or training in their homeland when they came to Germany, which was the result of a survey by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB).

Bnana Darwish is one of the eight percent of refugees who have already begun their studies in their home country and want to continue after their escape to Germany. In 2013, Bnana Darwish fled Syria. Today she is studying architecture in Stuttgart.

Bnana Darwish: In 2013 she fled Syria. Today she is studying architecture in Stuttgart.

"When I graduate, I would like to work in Germany so that I can give something back to the country," she says.

Darwish studied architecture in the fourth semester when her university was shot at in March 2013 in Damascus with grenades. With her family - her parents, three brothers and a sister - she fled to Libya. There in Tripoli, neither the father nor the brothers found work. So she applied for a scholarship, in March 2014 she came to Germany via the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Today the 29-year-old is studying in Stuttgart: She passed her bachelor's degree with a grade of 2.4, meanwhile she is on the verge of finishing her master's degree in architecture.

How many of the refugees study exactly in Germany can not be proven by any statistics, because every university or university documents the origin of their students differently. However, the founder association and the McKinsey consultancy predicted in a study that by 2020 up to 40,000 refugees could be enrolled in German universities or colleges. If financial hurdles were eliminated and health and, above all, linguistic problems eliminated, it could also be more than twice as many, it is said.

Language was the biggest problem for Darwish as well: Although she had learned German in an integration course, she had to learn afresh the academic German she needed for her studies. Bnana Darwish would like to stay in Germany after her master's degree and do research and maybe even do her doctorate in the area of ​​sustainability and urban planning. "I want to form and develop myself here," she says. Their time in Germany sees them as an opportunity that few get.

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What about the German language skills of the refugees?

The figures from April made headlines: About half of the immigrants who completed their first language course in 2018 did not finish it successfully. 51.5 percent missed the target language level B1. This means that they can not talk about familiar topics and do not talk about everyday situations. Three years ago, the rate was just over a third.

What does that mean exactly? Is it getting worse and worse to teach German to the refugees who live in Germany?

No, said Elke Breitenbach, chairwoman of the Conference of Integration Ministers and Berlin Senator for Integration in an interview in the April. The language courses today simply reached other people. "Two years ago," said Breitenbach, "we had about ten percent illiterate students in the language courses, and today it's 30 percent, plus that people from the Arab world have to learn completely new characters."

The numbers come from a response from the federal government aufeine small request by AfD deputy René Springer. After being published, the Federal Ministry for Migration and Refugees (Bamf), which funds German language courses, came under fire. At the time, Breitenbach acknowledged that the quality of the courses, which are usually carried out by private providers, has to improve.

How does Elke Breitenbach assess the situation today? She is critical. "The federal government had agreed to improve the quality of the courses and make them accessible to more refugees, and this commitment has not been met," she says. There had been some improvements with the summer package on asylum and immigration, but many refugees were excluded from language courses. "This is a big mistake, but we will not stop lobbying for improvements here and continue with our decision on the Integration Ministers' Conference."

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What about the welcome culture?

Photos of volunteers who receive migrants in the summer of 2015 in Munich's central station still characterize the image of refugee-friendly Germany. But at the same time, hatred for refugees also increased across Germany - and the concern that violent excesses against asylum seekers, as in the 1990s, for example in Rostock-Lichtenhagen, could be repeated. The numbers are depressing: in 2015, an average of three crimes against refugee homes were committed per day. Since then, the violence has declined, but in the first three months of this year there were on average still every three to four days offenses against accommodation. Anfeindungen or attacks on asylum seekers happen daily. In addition, the "Freital Group" and the "Revolution Chemnitz" have formed at least two terrorist groups in recent years that are directed against refugees.

Although a recent study by the Bertelsmann Stiftung has found that people in this country are now seeing a bit more positive migration, skeptical and negative views are still receiving higher approval in the population.

Is the welcome culture four years after Merkel's statement, "We can do it", give way to violence and hostility? Manuela Bojadžijev, Professor of Globalized Cultures at the University of Lüneburg on Migration and Racism Research, speaks in this connection of a strengthened rejection culture.

ZEIT ONLINE: Ms. Bojadžijev, has society failed in the debate on flight and integration to turn more strongly to racist agitation and violence?

Manuela Bojadžijev: No, the society has certainly not failed. There are innumerable initiatives such as #unteilbar or all the organizations that protect victims of racist and anti-Semitic violence. We must support their efforts even more. At the latest, the murder of the CDU politician Walter Lübcke in Hesse has revealed that violence can hit anyone who faces an extreme right-wing social project in the way.

ZEIT ONLINE: You speak of the fact that a culture of rejection in Germany has emerged. What does that mean exactly?

Bojadžijev: It is about an everyday culture in which the rejection of immigration is lived. The incidents in Chemnitz a year ago show well what I mean by this: Because an Iraqi asylum seeker has allegedly killed the German-Cuban carpenter Daniel H., a complete movement is organized, starting with chase attacks on migrants and ending up in xenophobic everyday culture. In sports clubs or other social groups it becomes obvious that one cultivates an aversive attitude towards migration - and thus explains everything that goes wrong in society.

ZEIT ONLINE: Has the racism in Germany since 2015 in your opinion increased?

Bojadžijev: That can not be unambiguously measured, but racism has certainly become more acceptable than it has been for a while - both in language, in the form of violence, and in how deeply rooted in institutions and society. If we want to turn against it, we need to understand and at the same time denounce what makes it broadly acceptable.

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