Series: Global Migration and Social Change

 

Series Editors: Nando Sigona, Institute for Research into Superdiversity, University of Birmingham, UK and Alan Gamlen, Monash University, Australia

This monograph series showcases original research that looks at the nexus between migration, citizenship and social change. This series aims to open up interdisciplinary terrain and to develop new scholarship in migration and refugee studies that is theoretically insightful and innovative, empirically rich and policy engaged.

Global Migration and Social Change

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Syrian refugees who sought asylum in Germany underwent an intensive integration regime. This resulted in binary notions of ‘well-integrated’ migrants versus those who failed to fulfil the narrow definitions of a ‘good’ refugee, thus straining the relationship between refugees and the state.

This book examines the relationship that refugees have with the administrative state through the perspective of the integration regime. While some asylum seekers gained international protection, others were left with limited agency to demand government accountability for the ever-moving target of integration.

This book provides an ethnography of Syrian refugees who sought asylum in Germany during this period and shows how they navigated the terms of conditional inclusion defined both legally and socially in order to ‘successfully’ integrate into German society. This narrow form of integration is defined by learning the German language and gaining financial independence, which is incentivized via access to permanent residency or German citizenship through achievements like contributions to federal retirement schemes or higher language certificates.

The book is presented from a historical context of the so-called European refugee crisis of 2015 and is divided three parts. Part I deals with arrival and asylum applications in German. Part II addresses the integration regime at large, exploring language courses and attempts to gain employment. Part III deals with the potential outcomes for Syrian refugees, answering the following question: what occurs when conditions of inclusion are fulfilled?

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The refugee experience is presented here by showing the shift from performativity to precarity among Syrians. By addressing the more bureaucratic policy aspects of migration law, the changes in migration law since 2015 are highlighted. This chapter frames these policies with direct quotes from refugees who participated in narrative interviews and describes the regionality of administrative decision making. It highlights the landscape of emergency housing that was developed as asylum applications increased from 2015 to 2016 and how local structures influenced access to language courses. Importantly, the theory of existential mobility is explored, showing how the insecurities that refugees faced upon arrival failed to meet expectations and led them to struggle to orientate themselves towards the future. Lastly, this chapter introduces the distinction that separates the subsequent chapters into two major categories: it distinguishes the experience of young men and of parents by highlighting social and familial differences. This is expressed towards the end of this chapter in terms of the kind of refugee protection the two groups received and the discrimination that they faced when seeking private housing.

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This concluding chapter explores a range of subjects outlined in the volume and presents new areas of inquiry that developed from the research. The key points of the book are presented in order to explain the primary takeaways from the work. It explains that, like migration, integration is seen as something linear, but my research reveals that bureaucracies, personal conditions and social structures often caused refugees to repeat bureaucratic processes and return to points of exclusion, despite having achieved official conditions of inclusion. The chapter then analyses the potential future for integration policy in Germany and Europe. It argues that the case of Germany presents a perspective that reflects the Global North’s tendency for exclusionary immigration policy, while highlighting how Germany uniquely invested extensively in integration, with questionable results. Lastly, it reflects on the potential future associated scholarship and the limitations of doing migration research under current conditions of transnational movement.

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This chapter builds on previous chapters by pivoting the focus towards the distinct challenges faced by families, which is highlighted by their interactions with the employees at the Job Centres. It shows how families relied on different forms of social capital than young men. It drives the book’s argument forward, which underlines how heterogeneous groups of refugees are lost in the integration machinery and have to informally navigate bureaucracies. Instead of building forms of capital from peers like young men or reliving traumatic experiences, families were often supported by what I label ‘engaged volunteers’: aid workers (often women) who then developed strong bonds with refugee families. These relationships were essential for providing support for finding private housing and navigating other aspects of the integration regime. While young men struggled to balance the need to support family members abroad, families coped by developing new social identities that developed in a new country and faced the decision of being willing to abandon hope of a return to Syria and start from the beginning again in Germany.

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Syrian Refugees, Bureaucracy, and Inclusion
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Syrian refugees who gained asylum in Germany following the so-called refugee crisis in 2015 quickly entered into an ‘integration regime’ which produced a binary notion of ‘well integrated’ migrants versus refugees falling short of the narrow social and political definitions of a ‘good’ refugee.

Etzel’s rich ethnographic study shows how refugees navigated this conditional inclusion. While some asylum seekers gained international protection, others were left with limited agency to demand government accountability for the ever-moving target of integration.

Putting a spotlight on the inconsistencies and failings of a universal approach to integration, this is an important contribution to the wider field of migration and anthropology of the state.

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This chapter shifts the focus to the outcomes following the language element of integration programmes. It presents a multitude of factors that influenced if and when refugees were able to complete either symbolic or tangible forms of requirements, such as language learning, retirement contributions, and adherence to normative ‘Germanness’. In order to present the potential outcomes, this chapter presents analysis and empirical work from inside the various bureaucracies. Here, extensive ethnographic fieldwork in one Foreigner’s Office and in two Job Centres is analysed to give a holistic picture of the internal and structural challenges faced by street-level bureaucrats in interpreting legal facets of the integration regime. It shows how the integration regime is structured as a rewards-based system which, instead of punishing migrants for failing to achieve milestones like learning German, rewards them with shorter pathways to permanent residency and citizenship. Lastly, the chapter closes with some key arguments about the arbitrary outcomes produced by bureaucracies. In part, the federal state has developed a legal framework that often fails to reward refugees for meeting the legal requirements for long-term residency.

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Syrian refugees who sought asylum in Germany underwent an intensive integration regime. This resulted in binary notions of ‘well-integrated’ migrants versus those who failed to fulfil the narrow definitions of a ‘good’ refugee, thus straining the relationship between refugees and the state.

This book examines the relationship that refugees have with the administrative state through the perspective of the integration regime. While some asylum seekers gained international protection, others were left with limited agency to demand government accountability for the ever-moving target of integration.

This book provides an ethnography of Syrian refugees who sought asylum in Germany during this period and shows how they navigated the terms of conditional inclusion defined both legally and socially in order to ‘successfully’ integrate into German society. This narrow form of integration is defined by learning the German language and gaining financial independence, which is incentivized via access to permanent residency or German citizenship through achievements like contributions to federal retirement schemes or higher language certificates.

The book is presented from a historical context of the so-called European refugee crisis of 2015 and is divided three parts. Part I deals with arrival and asylum applications in German. Part II addresses the integration regime at large, exploring language courses and attempts to gain employment. Part III deals with the potential outcomes for Syrian refugees, answering the following question: what occurs when conditions of inclusion are fulfilled?

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This introductory chapter begins with a reflective, ethnographic narrative introduction to my personal experience that led me to the subject of this volume. It presents the central themes of crisis, mobility, bureaucracy and, most importantly, what I call the German integration regime. It explains the integration regime as not only a supranational bureaucratic framework of refugee controls, but also a shifting social imaginary, and influences the formulation of refugee law and the way in which such law is interpreted. The framework combines a governmentality approach (Foucault 2011) and themes from Taylor’s (2004) definition of social imaginaries. It positions the work from the historical perspective of both the Syrian civil war and the development of German migration policy. This chapter outlines the ethnographic fieldwork that began in 2015 on the Turkish border with Syria and continued until 2020 – spanning three years of ethnographic fieldwork in longitudinal participant observation, expert interviews and informal interviews in several German migration and welfare state administrations. The chapter provides an overview of this volume that follows the path refugees are expected to follow in the integration regime: beginning with asylum application processing, then language learning and accreditation or further education, and finishing with financial independence.

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This chapter uses narrative interviews, discourse and document analysis to address the period before and shortly after interlocutors arrived in Germany. It shows how the area of arrival and first interaction with representatives of the administrative state would have lasting implications on the refugee experience with integration. It analyses how the so-called refugee crisis of 2015, during which over one million asylum seekers arrived in Germany, was framed in the media and public discourse in terms of welcome culture and volunteerism. In this chapter, an events-based approach is used to contextualize shifts in social moods. I draw from a range of literature analysing the events of 2015 and a so-called Stimmungswechsel (mood shift), which include the rise of welcome culture and volunteerism, countered by several terrorist attacks across Europe and the many allegations of sexual assault on New Year’s Eve. The chapter also highlights Syrians as a particularly ‘privileged’ group of asylum seekers in 2015, who enjoyed faster asylum application processing times and much greater chances of positive evaluations of asylum decisions.

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The chapter brings together the various challenges at each level of the integration regime by analysing various cases that underscore the heterogeneous group of Syrian refugees and the inability of the universalist approach to address them in kind. It shows how aspects of the integration regime such as formal recognition of degrees or work-related certificates, and discrimination, serve as a point of disenfranchisement. It applies notions of what Pedersen (2012) calls a ‘downward class journey’ and analyses the effects of the complicated landscape of formal work qualifications in Germany. Additionally, it explores how racism serves as a baseline that runs through the various points of integration measures. Relying on interviews with informants who had lived in Germany for several years and quantitative analysis of public data, the chapter explores how integration is existentially and economically contested in several symbolic and structural ways. Primarily, it shows how the Syrians’ social imaginary had shifted over time and how the fluctuating subjectification of ‘the Syrian refugee’ influenced the way in which they were governed among bureaucracies – in part, their expectations upon arrival versus the compromises they were willing to make after living in Germany for several years. The chapter highlights the flexibility young men had to imagine their future independently balanced against the unifying notion that a good Syrian is one who supports family members abroad. The chapter highlights some of the most marginalized refugees, exploring how the elderly, people with special needs and children are excluded from the integration regime, while the state offered few options for refugees to have their interests directly represented. The final section deals with political representation and engagement through citizenship by taking a critical aim at integration policy, which did not promote legal access to citizenship as a pathway to democratic participation and values. Lastly, it highlights some of the arbitrary aspects of access to permanent residency and the permanence pervading refugeeness even after this status had changed. Among many informants, the experience of being a refugee for many years had made them embody ‘the refugee’ identity even after becoming well ‘integrated’.

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