The Integration Puzzle What a Million Refugees Mean for Everyday Life

More than a million refugees are now living in Germany. The next task is to integrate them. SPIEGEL spoke with dozens of experts and people working in the field about the everyday challenges the influx means for the country.
The New Germany: Within only 12 months, over 1 million people moved to Germany. How will they integrate?

The New Germany: Within only 12 months, over 1 million people moved to Germany. How will they integrate?


As Germany attempts to integrate hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, SPIEGEL met with people around the country and posed some simple questions about its new residents, their integration and general challenges for German society.

What's working? What isn't? How much will it cost? Why go to all this trouble? And how do we expect things will turn out in the end? We spoke to 22 men and women who face these questions every day and asked them about their experiences, perspectives and the challenges they face.

Michael Schürks, 54, teaches self-defense classes in Berlin.

Why do you teach women how to hit, Mr. Schürks?

SPIEGEL: How's business?

Schürks: I've been doing this for eight years, but the demand for my courses has never been higher due to the New Year's attacks in Cologne . That really changed the world.

SPIEGEL: What are the women who come to you afraid of?

Schürks: They're afraid of being raped and injured. There was a lot of that in Cologne, as there often is when you have a large number of men and a small number of women and the alcohol is flowing. It doesn't matter where the men are from.

SPIEGEL: What do you teach women?

Schürks: Highly effective physical self-defense. I show them how to hit an attacker where he is most vulnerable, regardless of how strong he is.

SPIEGEL: Pepper spray sales are up too.

Schürks: I would advise against that. With weapons, you're constantly moving them back and forth in your bag, so you're always reminded of violence. That's toxic for your quality of life.

Integration 101

Slim Boutaieb, 47, teaches immigrants in Munich the basic principles of German culture.

What is the first thing immigrants to Germany need to know, Mr. Boutaieb?

Slim Boutaieb helps his fellow Arab Muslims in Munich understand Germany. Born in Tunisia, he moved to the Bavarian capital in 1992. He, too, had to first get his bearings in a foreign country. Now, Boutaieb wants to pass along the lessons he's learned. His contribution to integration is 924 kilobytes in size and 16 pages long. It's a PowerPoint presentation in German and Arabic, an "Integration 101" of sorts, which he takes with him when he visits refugee shelters.

Slide No. 7 is about openness. New arrivals have to get to know the people around them and give their culture a chance. "I tell them they can forget the rules and norms that applied back home. Germany is different," Boutaieb says.

Slide No. 9: Language. "Language is the biggest barrier if you want to come into contact with the Germans," says Boutaieb. He encourages people to go and talk to Germans even if their language skills aren't yet polished.

Slide No. 11: Germany's democratic culture. One must respect the freedom of others, he tells the new arrivals. Everyone here is permitted to worship however he or she wants, and people are allowed to drink, party and have fun. At the same time, solidarity is held in high regard. Germans live by the credo: "If someone has fallen, help pull them back up again."

Slide No. 13: The rule of law. There is little or no corruption; human rights are respected, as is equality for women. Boutaieb tells his audience that in Germany, sometimes it's the man's turn to cook, vacuum and clean. The men often chuckle when he says that.

Are Refugees More Violent?

Christian Pfeifer, 71, is a criminologist.

Is crime in Germany on the rise, Mr. Pfeiffer?

For months, fear has been spreading that the crime rate in Germany may soon rise. People feel like their security is under threat due to the many foreigners arriving en masse. What the far-right regards as an absolute truth, Christian Pfeiffer, former director of the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony, calls "propaganda." He cites data from Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) gathered between January and September last year. It shows that while the absolute number of crimes has risen, the crime rate grew much slower in relation to the high number of immigrants.

Back in the 1990s, when civil war in Yugoslavia drove hundreds of thousands of refugees to Germany, Pfeiffer examined the effect that an influx of mostly Muslim immigrants had on the crime rate. What he discovered was that immigrants tend to commit fewer crimes than the rest of the population. "Those who had a chance of being granted asylum did everything to avoid putting their status in jeopardy. This, in turn, led to greater obedience to our laws," Pfeiffer says.

The criminologist expects similar restraint from today's Syrian refugees, who unlike the North African suspects in Cologne on New Year's Eve, have a legitimate chance of remaining in Germany for the long term. The biggest difference between the Syrians and the Yugoslav refugees, he says, is that back in the 1990s, people took their whole family with them when they fled. The refugees from Syria include at least 400,000 young, single men -- a demographic with the highest propensity for crime in any country or society.

"Whether we will continue to live safely in the future depends on how we teach our rules to these often angry and frustrated youths, who come from very macho cultures. They need to learn that women are not to be preyed upon, you don't hit children and you don't respond to being disrespected with violence," Pfeiffer says.

Hiring more police officers or tightening laws won't help and making it easier to deport immigrants who commit crimes is also just a diversionary tactic, he argues. The only solution, Pfeiffer says, is exert as much effort on these men as one does on children, women and families.

Pfeiffer believes this challenge can be overcome despite the dauntingly high number of immigrants. Talk of Germany's police forces being overwhelmed  is unfounded, he says. However, if Germany accepts as many refugees this year as it did in 2015, "then we won't manage it."

Criminologist Christian Pfeiffer:"Those who had a chance of being granted asylum did everything to avoid putting their status in jeopardy."

Criminologist Christian Pfeiffer:"Those who had a chance of being granted asylum did everything to avoid putting their status in jeopardy."

Foto: Ole Spata/ dpa

Frustration and a Lack of Resources

Ms. S., 37, is an integration teacher in a populous German city.

What do immigrants learn in your integration course, Ms. S.?

S. speaks angrily and passionately and wants to remain anonymous. She has been teaching integration courses to immigrants for many years. The courses consist of around 600 hours of language training plus 60 hours of "orientation," which includes a week of politics and a week of culture and everyday life. She asks: "What could anyone possibly learn?"

The integration courses were introduced in 2005 and have until now been aimed primarily at family dependents joining other family members already in Germany or at migrant workers. Since October, the courses have also been available to asylum applicants. Immigration law provides them with access to such courses, but only if eventual "legal and permanent residence status can be expected." At the moment, Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis and Eritreans in Germany all qualify under the law. It does not, however, include Afghans . Such is the logic of the government in Berlin. (The German government has recently drawn criticism for plans to deport Afghan asylum-seekers coming from areas of the country deemed to be safe by Berlin.)

Recently, the conservative Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, has called for making the courses mandatory for all refugees as an essential part of integration measures. That would also mean making them available to all new arrivals. And therein lies the problem: S. says: "We don't have enough of anything, neither courses, teachers, space nor money."

Teachers are required to model their lessons on a curriculum provided by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Ms. S., showing one of the books, says: "Look inside, does this look to you like it is enough to do the job?"

The book, in its sixth edition, is called "For Orientation -- Basic Knowledge of Germany." It has chapters on democracy, political parties, civil liberties and civic duties, flags, coats of arms, anthems, National Socialism and Germany's Zero Hour, which marked the Nazis' formal capitulation and the end of World War II, East Germany and the European Union. There's also a section called "People and Society," which delves into everything from German gingerbread and the Harz mountain range to relationships of all kinds. It also mentions that women are equal to men, but it's just a brief sentence.

Teaching Refugees to Swim

Jürgen Steingreber, 53, is a swimming instructor from Harrislee, a suburb of Flensburg.

Mr. Steingreber, why are you teaching refugees to swim?

SPIEGEL: How can you integrate refugees in your area?

Steingreber: I noticed that there were a few hours during the week when the public pool was available. I asked the mayor if it would be OK if I used that window to teach refugees how to swim. Most of them came to Europe by boat, but hardly any of them know how to swim. The mayor said yes.

SPIEGEL: How are things going?

Steingreber: Good, I think. Each week, 16 men attend. Everywhere you go, there are people trying to find things for refugee children to do. But for the adults, there are far fewer options. But we have to integrate them too. These swimming lessons offer the men a chance to meet us and for us to meet them.

SPIEGEL: What are some things that are not going so well?

Steingreber: There aren't many problems overall. Our community is located right along the Danish border. We're used to people communicating in different languages and having different traditions.

SPIEGEL: What could be going better?

Steingreber: For now, it's only men who have attended the lessons. All of them were scared at first, but I eventually helped them get over it. If they're having fun, then I think at some point they'll bring their families along too. That would be great.

'A Challenge Like No Other'

Steffen Jäger, 37, is a senior official with the Association of Municipalities of Baden-Württemberg.

Do we need better public servants, Mr. Jäger?

In the lecture hall of the Ludwigsburg University of Education, Steffen Jäger paints a vivid picture of what 300 budding administrators for the German state of Baden-Württemberg should expect: asylum applications that must be fast-tracked, costs that nobody knows who will pay and concerned or angry citizens demanding answers about slots at government-sponsored daycare facilities, housing availability and social welfare benefits now that more people are in need of such benefits.

"It's a challenge like no other we have seen since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany," says Jäger. "And you, ladies and gentlemen, are to be entrusted with this task." The crowd of prospective bureaucrats is subdued. The primary mesage conveyed to them is that they have their work cut out for them. Lots of it.

Jäger's event is titled, "The current refugee situation and the challenges it poses for local politics." He was invited to speak in his capacity as a senior official with the Association of Municipalities of Baden-Württemburg, which represents the interests of more than 1,000 communities in Germany's third most-populous state. Jäger believes that the question of whether or not Germany is up to the task of absorbing so many refugees will be determined at the local level.

"Local governments are the first point of contact for those granted asylum, for volunteers and for companies that want to hire refugees," Jäger says. The administrative apparatus has a pivotal function. "But right now, it's highly dysfunctional." His people are at the breaking point. They want to fulfill their mission, "but we are urgently awaiting answers from the state and federal governments as to how all this is supposed to be financed."

Jäger's fantasy would be for every city hall in the country to hire "refugee managers," who would act as a go-between for authorities, schools, daycare centers, volunteers and other associations. Task forces would be formed, made up of the directors of various offices, to come up with master plans for the communities. For now, though, that's all wishful thinking. Even without such new positions, Jäger estimates Baden-Württemberg will have to come up with €4.7 billion ($5.2 billion) for the refugees it takes in.

Will Germany manage it? Jäger stays silent for a long time before answering: "If everyone shifts into crisis mode, yes."

The Doctor's Advice: Learn German and Be Patient

Amin Ballouz, 57, heals refugees and the elderly in the town of Schwedt on the German-Polish border.

Why are you still homesick, Dr. Ballouz?

The doctor stands in his office and cries. He holds a small, eight-month-old Syrian girl in his arms who he must vaccinate against tetanus, diphtheria and polio. He pricks her with his needle; now she's crying too. The parents, a young couple from Madaya, Syria, are telling the story of their bombed-out city, where children are currently starving. Then they ask the doctor how they're supposed to live here among the strangers who look as gray and closed off as the Communist-era, East German prefab homes they live in?

The doctor's answer is always the same: learn German and be patient. While he offers his advice, his thoughts wander to his own flight 40 years ago. Ballouz was only 17 when he escaped the civil war in his native Beirut on his father's orders. There was no "Willkommenskultur," or welcoming culture, like there is today. And he didn't have anybody here waiting for him. He was lonelier than the Syrian family sitting in his office now. They kiss his hand, though he's not particularly fond of the gesture. For them, the doctor is a welcome consolation in a foreign land -- and the reverse is true as well.

Dr. Amin Ballouz is from Lebanon. His mother was Muslim, his father Christian. He studied in what was then East Germany and has worked as a doctor across the globe. For the last six years, he has been a general practitioner in the town of Schwedt. It's a place where people only ever move away from, never to. Since the collapse of East Germany, the population has nearly halved. Schwedt's future prospects are grim.

The people from the surrounding region, known as the Uckermark, hold the doctor in high regard. He's "good at giving shots" and has a sense of humor, they say. But for asylum-seekers, Ballouz is much more than that. He is a translator, a judge and arbitrator, a counselor and a therapist. He says that for him, the few hundred refugees in the area are like a sweet medicine against homesickness. They help him to reconcile his own unhappy youth in Germany.

A €1.5 Billion Burden for the Healthcare System?

What's in store for the German healthcare system?

A lot of refugees also means a lot of new patients. Public healthcare providers almost everywhere in Germany are looking for doctors to work in first aid stations, and in some places, doctors are even coming out of retirement to work in refugee shelters.

The German Hospital Federation (DKG) has tried to quantify the new status quo. Assuming migrants will visit hospitals as often as locals, then 1 million refugees per year translates to 160,000 additional hospital visits. This may sound daunting, but various data has shown that, on average, refugees incur about half as many costs as German patients. So, a million refugees a year means spending about €1.5 billion extra.

Relatively speaking, that's not a whole lot. Viewed on what it means for the healthcare system in economic terms, current levels of immigration are actually expected to bolster the German social welfare system in the long run. In traditional immigration countries such as Canada, Australia or the United States, researchers have long established that migrants are in general healthier than the local population. What is known as the "healthy immigrant effect" is nothing more than the fact that people who make their way to another country tend to be overwhelmingly young and healthy.

Specialists like Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the president of the German Medical Association, advocate treating refugees like any other patients. That means not sending them to first pick up a treatment voucher at their local welfare office, as is customary in many communities. And it means not only treating acute symptoms, but also chronic or mental illnesses.

But until they are granted asylum status, refugees in Germany are only granted limited access to the national healthcare system for the first 15 months after their arrival, with care provided only in cases of acute illness, an acute need for treatment or painful illnesses. Such limits on refugee healthcare have been the subject of considerable debate in recent months.

A doctor with a mobile clinic provides care to a refugee in the city of Tübingen. Most refugees are initially excluded by law from anything but urgent care.

A doctor with a mobile clinic provides care to a refugee in the city of Tübingen. Most refugees are initially excluded by law from anything but urgent care.

Foto: Jonas Schöll / dpa

Dancing Away Stereotypes and Prejudice

Actress Olga Feger, 36, brings people together in Dresden.

How do you dance with North Africans, Ms. Feger?

The way Olga Feger sees it, time can be divided into the "before Pegida" era and "after Pegida ," referring to the far-right, anti-Muslim movement  based in Dresden. Even before Pegida was founded, she was campaigning on behalf of migrants and offered a theater club for "Dresden's young locals and its refugees." After Pegida came into the picture, however, she decided her efforts no longer went far enough. Together with some friends, she opened Café International in the city's trendy Neustadt district. It serves as a weekly meeting point for locals and refugees.

She also directs a theater workshop at Dresden's respected Staatsschauspiel theater. Every Monday, she stands among 70 to 80 people and asks them to get in a circle and hold hands. Then she asks them to intertwine with one another as much as they can without letting go. It's an interesting exercise. Eighty percent of the workshop's participants are migrants, all of them young men from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and North Africa. The locals who attend are almost all women. A 13-year-old girl with her mother is also there. Feger observes how the mood relaxes with each new exercise. "It's striking how people can alleviate their aggression through these exercises and find their way toward greater confidence," she says. For a time, it also looked like she might need to come up with another way to divide time -- "before Cologne" and "after Cologne." As this year's sexual violence was still making headlines, her female participants and the North Africans kept their distance from her workshop for a while. But now, they've started to come back, she says. And to this day, there's never been an incident in her course.

Dance instructor Olga Feger: "It's striking how people can alleviate their aggression through these exercises."

Dance instructor Olga Feger: "It's striking how people can alleviate their aggression through these exercises."

Foto: Detlef Ulbrich/ Societaetstheater Dresden

The Midwife's Migraine

H., 32, is a midwife.

What does a midwife typically experience inside a refugee camp, Ms. H?

"When I tried to refer pregnant women to gynecologists, I sometimes had to call 15 different practices before I could find a doctor who was willing to take them. Of course there are many committed doctors with whom I have worked together very well, but there are also practices that don't want to take on refugees because the women often aren't properly insured. Naturally the doctors need to be able to make money, but there also has to be another way of obtaining compensation for treating refugees.

The women were always extremely grateful when I came for an hour a week to the refugees' initial reception center to provide midwife services. In addition to myself, there was also a pediatric nurse and a pediatrician, each of whom came for four to five hours a week. That's not enough, but there isn't enough money available for more positions right now. This is especially problematic given that pregnant refugees are at a higher risk of premature births and complications. They were submitted to high stress levels during their flight, and the babies in their womb often aren't getting the nourishment or care they need. Obviously this stress doesn't end once they arrive at a camp in Germany.

Often, it's the bureaucracy which makes things complicated. At one point I needed to get hold of gloves and disinfectant and I was referred from one office to the next. I still haven't found out as of today who, exactly, is responsible for providing these things. I ultimately bought them myself.

Germany Will Need 20,000 New Teachers for Refugees

Claudia Bogedan, 40, is president of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (KMK), the national body representing education ministers for the German federal states.

How are the schools going to manage the refugee crisis, Ms. Bogedan?

The German school system absorbed 325,000 refugee children during 2014 and 2015. The current president of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the German states, Claudia Bogedan, who is also senator for education affairs in the Bremen city-state government, has been dealing with "unprecedented" numbers lately. Numbers like this: Germany will need 20,000 additional teachers in the immediate future. Those teachers will cost €2.3 billion each year -- that is, if they can be found and hired. Germany is currently suffering from a serious shortage of teachers on the labor market. "We need to increase our focus on encouraging career changers to enter into teaching," says Bogedan. There's also a serious lack of teachers qualified to teach German as a second language to foreigners. Many German states have recently begun offering a large number of courses in order to provide professionals with the necessary qualifications because, as

Bogedan notes, "nothing works if (the refugees) don't learn German." Additional support classes are now being offered to newly arrived migrants in elementary schools, and secondary schools in most states have added courses providing German-language training in addition to normal coursework.

The sheer magnitude of the language issue makes another problem suddenly seem minute by comparison -- the fact that children simply need space. In larger cities, many schools are currently placing mobile units in schoolyards. "The situation is much better in the rural areas," says Bogedan, where many schools that had been closed because of shrinking populations are now being slated for reopening.

Refugee children receive instruction at an elementary school in Potsdam.

Refugee children receive instruction at an elementary school in Potsdam.

Foto: Ralf Hirschberger/ picture alliance / dpa

'We Need Time'

Stefan Hensel, 36, is the director of several daycare centers in Hamburg.

What's needed in the daycare centers, Mr. Hensel?

"In order for us to succeed in integration, we need time -- time for the children and for their families, the more the better. Each hour counts. We will pay a high price in a few years' time for every hour that we don't invest in today."

'We Will Only Manage This If We Have the Infrastructure'

Cordula Heckmann, 57, is the director of the Rütli Campus in Berlin's Neukölln district, a gritty urban neighborhood with a large immigrant population.

How did you succeed in turning the Rütli High School around, Ms. Heckmann?

Cordula Heckmann, a woman who should have something to say about how to integrate children, is sitting at the end of the school corridor behind a green metal door. Report cards are stacked on a desk and some 550 students between grades seven and 13 are waiting for their grades. Ninety-two percent are first or second-generation immigrants, with most living in families receiving welfare assistance. Their parents originate from countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. They include Roma, Kurds, Yezidis, Shiites and Sunnis. "We are a microcosm of all the world's problems," says Cordula Heckmann, director of the school.

A security guard dressed entirely in black stands at the entry gate to the school, a reminder of the time a decade ago when it made international headlines  for violence perpetrated by unruly students against teachers and became a symbol of failed integration in the German capital Berlin. In the years since, the school has made headlines for a successful turn-around that has made it a model for the future. So how did the school succeed, Ms. Heckmann?

"We have the same students, but students now have different prospects," she says. Rütli, which Heckmann has led since 2009, has been transformed into a comprehensive school in which children are now completing their college-prep high school education and heading off to university -- a development many would never have expected. The school has two daycare centers and also offers Turkish and Arabic courses so that students learn not only German, but also get proper command of their mother tongues in order to prevent them from speaking broken versions of two languages, as Heckmann puts it. The school also provides a health service where parents can take their children for medical checkups. Soon, the city will also open up a local branch of the youth welfare office inside the school.

Addressing the issue of all the refugee children who are now expected to be taught in German schools, she says, "We will only manage this if we have the necessary infrastructure." By that, she means money, facilities and training for potential teacher and staff positions. "Everyone needs to be working together: social education workers, school psychologists, social workers and police," she says.

'We Will Undergo a Multicultural Transformation'

Jürgen Friedrichs, 77, is an urban sociologist in Cologne.

Mr. Friedrichs, what will the German city of tomorrow look like?

Immigrants will transform our cities. "They will become larger, more densely populated and they will undergo a multicultural transformation -- we will have to prepare ourselves for that," says Jürgen Friedrichs, a retired professor for urban sociology at the University of Cologne. "There will be more mosques and more specialty restaurants, which enrich cities and make them more cosmopolitan. Ethnic neighborhoods will emerge in major cities. The idea that 95 percent of the people living in our cities are ethnic German will become a thing of the past. It may also be that, in the future, there will in fact be a problem with rough, no-go areas. Much depends on the way we house the refugees now."

In the past, Friedrichs conducted research into gentrification, social inequality and poor urban districts and on the exclusion and integration of immigrants. He says the pressure on municipalities right now to house newcomers is leading many cities to choose solutions that "we know are wrong."

He's referring to the large container complexes and modular structures placed at the edge of cities and housing 700, 1,500 or even 3,000 refugees each.

These large settlements are a form of discrimination, even if normal Germans are also living there. Be it in Cologne's Chorweiler district, Munich's Hasenbergl or Hamburg's Mümmelmannsberg, "you can immediately detect that the lower class is living there," he says. Migrants who are put up in these kinds of quarters, in "refugee enclaves" as Friedrichs describes them, have too little contact with Germans and they have little reason to learn the language or to fit in. "Integration doesn't work in such circumstances."

Friedrichs would like to see refugees distributed in small units across entire cities. He says there should never be more than 200 in one residential area. Exceptions should only be made in rare instances and, even then, only in middle-class areas because they are the most tolerant.

At the time of German reunification, Friedrichs served as a member of the Commission for Economic and Social Transformation. At the time, he studied the transformation that took place in the eastern cities of Leipzig, Erfurt and Chemnitz after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Six months ago, Friedrichs got in touch with German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and proposed conducting systematic research into how the type of housing offered to refugees influences their integration. "We would have been able to see in black and white just what works and what doesn't." De Maizière rejected the proposal.

Refugees at Our Doorsteps

Günther Hildebrand, 66, is the leading official of Pinnau, a Hamburg suburb.

How will we succeed in putting a roof over the head of every refugee in Germany, Mr. Hildebrand?

Germany has a population of 80 million people and 1 million refugees, meaning there is one refugee for every 80 people. That's exactly the proportion that is to be found right now in the municipality of Pinnau. Here, there are 160 refugees compared to 13,000 residents. In the beginning, the situation was pure chaos. We found them suddenly standing at our doorsteps. We had to rent boarding houses for them just to prevent people from having to sleep on the street. So far, we have succeeded in placing all the refugees in privately rented spaces. Still, the vacancy rate in areas like this located near Hamburg is very low and we are competing on the local housing market in the same way that everyone else is. We are constantly scanning the listings. It's difficult, too, because nobody is legally required to rent to us.

Next week, 17 more people will arrive, and we have also found accommodations for them in the buildings of a former nursery that we are currently remodeling using drywall. You've got to improvise these days.

The county commissioner has recommended using sports gymnasiums, but I'm not doing that because it would run the risk of alienating local residents. We must avoid angering them by using sporting facilities to house the refugees. At the same time, I also don't want a tent city in the parking lot. There has to be another solution.

What I have a problem with is that we have no idea how long this is going to continue for. If I build a road, then I usually know that it will be completed in two years. I know absolutely nothing with the refugees -- it has an open end and it's not possible to do long-term planning.

1.09 Million Refugees Registered in 2015

Susanne Worbs, 42, is an immigration and integration researcher at the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees.

What's the situation like at the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees, Ms. Worbs?

The Federal Office of Migration and Refugees (BAMF) registered 1.09 asylum-seekers in 2015, a task that proved to be "a major challenge," says Susan Worbs. Around two-thirds of the refugees came from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, with about 13 percent originating from the West Balkans region and the remainder coming from countries like Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea, Algeria, Somalia and Morocco. The typical refugee in 2015 was male, Muslim and under 30.

Worbs and her colleagues recently conducted a survey of 2,800 refugees whose asylum applications were approved in recent years. Some 76 percent of the Syrian respondents said they wanted to stay in Germany for good. Among Iraqis, that figure was 88 percent. They also want to participate in society, provide for their own families rather than live off of government assistance and to give something back to Germany. "The level of motivation among the refugees is enormously high," says Worbs.

Policing the Refugee Camps

Police Chief Inspector Marc Banduhn, 43, ensures the safety of refugees in Kiel.

How is everyday life going at the refugee camps, Chief Inspector Banduhn?

SPIEGEL: Where are we right now?

Banduhn: In the police station at the initial reception center for refugees in Kiel. We've taken another approach here than in other states. Here, the police are integrated into the refugees' accommodations. There is no other German state doing it this way. But it really does make a difference. We are right where things are happening and we are constantly on-site.

SPIEGEL: There are many stories circulating right now about constant police deployments to the camps.

Banduhn: I can't confirm that. It may have to do with the fact that the approach of other states is that of the classic reactive police force that only shows up when the fire is already burning. In that sense, they don't see what is going on in everyday life. As a rule, things are generally peaceful.

SPIEGEL: What do you consider your job to be?

Banduhn: We ensure the safety of residents. I thought this was going to be a much more difficult task than it has turned out to be in terms of the criminality taking place within  and the threat from outside . So far, neither has been a problem. What we are doing here is not classic police work -- instead we're operating according to the idea of "friend and helper." Sometimes we even help in the kitchen.

SPIEGEL: What did you do prior to this?

Banduhn: Shiftwork. I also led a small police station in a neighborhood.

SPIEGEL: Were you drafted for your new task or did you volunteer?

Banduhn: I was asked. Then I slept on it for two nights before saying yes. So far, I haven't regretted it. To me, there's no diffierence if I go to a nightclub during a normal patrol because someone has started a fight with a doorman or if two refugees have gotten into a tangle while waiting in line. A police presence can usually clarify the situation.

SPIEGEL: Where are police found for these positions?

Banduhn: Of course, cuts in other areas are being made in order to make this possible. There are other areas that we aren't covering as extensively as usual -- you could also say that we're neglecting them. They include things like speed checks.

Police officer Marc Banduhn: "I thought this was going to be a much more difficult task than it has turned out to be."

Police officer Marc Banduhn: "I thought this was going to be a much more difficult task than it has turned out to be."

Foto: Moritz Gerlach/DER SPIEGEL

The Refugee Bill

Matthias Lücke, 55, is a professor at the Institute for the World Economy in Kiel.

Mr. Lücke, what is this all going to cost?

The figure for this year is €25.7 billion. It's a kind of price tag. That's the amount Germany will have to come up with in 2016 if the number of refugees coming to the country continues as it is -- including costs for housing, language courses, social services and integration.

Matthias Lücke, an economist at the Institute for the World Economy in Kiel, has computed all the costs, conducting a simulation that calculates a price tag with many unpredictable variables. Among Lücke's areas of research are issues like international labor migration and globalization and income distribution. He has a fundamental interest in what happens when migrants come to Germany. Do they help the country or do they harm it?

Germans are obsessed with numbers and statistics, and that is becoming apparent once again in the refugee crisis. They want to know costs, quotas and upper limits. They want to know what to expect, and numbers provide the illusion that the situation is somehow under control. In fact, her refusal to name these figures is one of the reasons Chancellor Angela Merkel is having so much trouble  right now.

But Lücke's answer to the question of what the Germans and their generosity is going to cost -- in terms of its overall macroeconomic impact -- is €25.7 billion, for this year alone. For the year 2022, Lücke has even calculated a sum of €55 billion. Those are big numbers, and none of Germany's other major economic institutes has cited larger figures. University of Freiburg Economics Professor Bernd Raffelhüschen calculates a figure of €17 billion, Munich's IFO Institute puts costs (for 2015) at €21 billion and the Mannheim-based ZEW estimates €30 billion.

Lücke's calculations are based on a number of assumptions. For example, his institute forecasts the arrival of 1.4 million refugees in 2016, 400,000 more than in 2015 -- a figure that includes family dependents getting reunited in Germany. In 2017, 1.2 million people would arrive, with the number in Lücke's scenario dropping to a million a year from 2018 to 2020 and then remaining constant.

Lücke says that it costs around €13,000 a year to provide for a single refugee, a figure that includes not only monetary benefits, but also administrative costs for BAMF, the costs of German language courses, as well as the administrative expenses of the municipalities and states.

Decisive in these calculations is the percentage of people who remain in Germany. Around 30 percent of refugees tend to return to their home country within the first three years. Around 20 percent are bestowed with the German legal status of "tolerated," meaning that they do not qualify for asylum but will also not be deported from Germany. Of the original refugees, about 68 percent continue to receive government welfare payments after the first two years, with that figure shrinking to 33.5 percent after five years and down to 17.5 percent after 10 years.

Based on these factors, Lücke predicts costs of €37.4 billion in 2017 and the aforementioned €55 billion for 2022. That would be just under 2 percent of current GDP. The €25.7 billion for this year is equal to 0.85 percent of GDP. Lücke considers that figure to be "manageable," measured against what Germany was able to handle during the reunification of West and East Germany. Germany's more prosperous states have paid more than €2 trillion in transfer payments to the states that formerly belonged to East Germany since reunification in 1990.

Integration Will Be a Task for Decades to Come

Aydan Özuguz, 48, is Germany's Federal Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration.

Ms. Özoguz, is your position powerful enough?

We need a Ministry for Immigration Affairs in Germany. After all, I'm not in the head of a unit -- I only have a small staff. I consider this to be a cardinal error. The integration of migrants will remain a core task for our entire society for many years to come. Much needs to be changed and reorganized. But a "commissioner" does not have the ability to propose new legislation. Nor is she able to pool together the many different initiatives that already exist.

'An Open Economy Would Be Unimaginable without Immigration'

Herbert Brücker, 55, is a migration expert at the Institute for Employment Research, the research arm of Germany's Federal Employment Agency.

How many refugees will come, Mr. Brücker?

SPIEGEL: How many refugees are you expecting this year?

Brücker: Whether or not immigration continues to remain so high is dependent on the situation in the countries of origin, the transit countries and, of course, on German and European policies. No one has any way of predicting that precisely. One thing is certain though: Gross should not be confused with net. Of the 1.1 million refugees who were recorded in 2015, it's likely that only 800,000 are still here.

SPIEGEL: What level of education do the refugees in Germany have?

Brücker: We still don't know all that much. In any case, neither the story about the many Syrian doctors nor the fairy tale of the army of illiterates is true. Levels of education seem to be highly contrasting. Of those who are coming to Germany, there is an above-average number of both well-educated and poorly educated people. Around 35 percent of the registered asylum-seekers have either finished secondary school or attended a university. Around one-quarter only attended primary school or have no schooling at all.

SPIEGEL: Is it right to say that most of the people coming are young men?

Brücker: Yes. Two-thirds are men; around 70 percent are from war- and civil war-torn countries. The reason for this is that the escape routes from these countries are far riskier. Some 26 percent of the asylum-seekers are 15 years old or younger. Just under 30 percent are between 16 and 24 years old.

SPIEGEL: Can we integrate all these people?

Brücker: From an economic perspective, that's not the question. Immigration can have either a positive or negative effect, but economies know no upper limit. The problem isn't the high number of migrants or the absorptive capacity of the labor market. It's one of a government infrastructure that is currently incapable of coping with these numbers. Investment in the infrastructure and in the housing market are both prerequisites needed in order for us to do a good job in managing the migration of refugees.

SPIEGEL: Will the number of jobless people in Germany go up?

Brücker: At first, yes. We calculate that, on average, there will be about 380,000 jobs for refugees in 2016, with the number of unemployed refugees climbing to around 130,000. In the longer term, the employment rate will depend on our integration policies. In the past, only about 10 percent found jobs in the year of their arrival, but after five years, around half the refugees had found work.

SPIEGEL: Will this place pressure on existing German workers?

Brücker: National economies are dynamic systems. During the past five years, new jobs were created in Germany for around 1.1 million foreign workers, particularly in sectors like catering, agriculture and domestic care. These are all sectors where few had expected major growth prior to the immigration. If anyone stands to lose in the labor market from the refugee influx, then it is other migrants. German workers stand to profit. This is not only because they don't compete with refugees in the same labor market segment. They also profit from the government expenditure programs (aimed at helping creating access for refugees to the job market).

SPIEGEL: All in all, do you think this immigration should be welcomed? Or would we be better off without it?

Brücker: An open economy would be unimaginable without immigration. Just to keep the labor supply stable between now and 2050, we would need an increase of 500,000 people each year. That still wouldn't be enough for us to completely compensate for the consequences of demographic change, but it would likely at least mitigate them. (Eds. Note: According to the German Federal Statistical Office, which provides two projections, a lower base version and a higher variant based on future immigration, the national population is expected to decline from a 2013 figure of 80.8 million to between 67.6 million and 73.1 million by 2060.)

BMW Courts Refugees

Inga Jürgens, 47, is the head of personnel strategy at the BMW Group and director of the WORK HERE! practical training program.

Ms. Jürgens, has BMW had any success in finding Syrian engineers?

We developed the idea this past September. As a company, we believe we have an obligation to society. That's why we want to help 500 refugees get acquainted with the German working world. Our plan was to start with 50 people, but we had a difficult time finding enough participants to fill all the slots. A sufficient knowledge of German was one of the prerequisites, but very few have that. In the end, 31 men and three women came to our company headquarters in Munich -- including 34 professionally qualified refugees, of whom 27 were still with us as of mid-January. The program began with a two-day crash course, "Living and Working in Germany," on Nov. 16. It answered questions like: What's important to us Germans? What's the appropriate way to dress? How do we meet women? How do people greet each other? And what is the correct behavior in the company cafeteria? Afterwards, they begin work experience programs in very diverse departments. Those who prove themselves can then apply for an internship or an open position.

We came to the determination quickly that the education level of many wasn't sufficient. Some have completed vocational training, but few have studied business or IT. Besides, IT in the countries they are coming from isn't necessarily at the same level as here. What I did see in every one of them, though, was a high degree of motivation to come to work.

At the beginning, we had to explain to participants that in Germany it isn't enough to just send your brother in your place if you are unable to come to work. Or that excuses like "the bus didn't come" won't work because the buses almost always come in Germany and that, if you don't trust that the bus will keep to its schedule, you'll just have to take an earlier one.

Refugees from Syria or Afghanistan come from a relationship-oriented culture -- and they have trouble finding their way in an expertise-oriented culture like that in Germany. They have to learn, for example, that it is not normal to ask your supervisor during your first conversation how old they are or about their relationship status.

A Michelin Star and Refugees

Heinz Winkler, a chef with a Michelin star at the luxury hotel Residenz Heinz Winkler in Aschau am Chiemsee south of Munich, recently made headlines in Germany for providing training to refugees.

What is your young African chef up to, Mr. Winkler?

Last spring, I deliberately sought out refugees in order to offer them the possibility of training to become a chef. We then invited five people who were interested in internships. We had to apply for a work permit for each of them. Do you know how complex that process is? We kept one of them. His name is Hagie Foday Jaiteh Kabba and he comes from Sierra Leone. In the kitchen, he just goes by the name Hagie. I'm really impressed by Hagie. He's very committed, he's got standards and energy. He's already a full-fledged member of our team in the kitchen. He's not washing dishes! Thousands of jobs are vacant in the catering industry. I'm sure there are all sorts of refugees who would like to have these jobs. So why aren't we getting these people? I'll tell you why: Because small businesses don't have the time for the kind of paperwork that is required. I blame German bureaucracy.

Michelin star chef Heinz Winkler and Hagie Foday Jaiteh Kabba: "A full-fledged member of our kitchen team."

Michelin star chef Heinz Winkler and Hagie Foday Jaiteh Kabba: "A full-fledged member of our kitchen team."

Foto: Moritz Aisslinger

'What Is a Petroleum Technician?'

Petra Lotzkat, 55, is the head of the Office for Labor and Integration in Hamburg.

What is it that a juice delivery person does, Ms. Lotzkat?

What is a petroleum technician? "Are we dealing with an oil drilling expert or is it just a gas station attendant?" asks Petra Lotzkat, head of Hamburg's Office of Labor and Integration. In addition to painters and IT people, questionnaires given to refugees have turned up some rather odd qualifications -- such as "self-employed juice delivery man" or "corrosion engineer."

Lotzkat runs the Hamburg-based program Work and Integration for Refugees (W.I.R.). W.I.R. has conducted around 700 pre-screenings of refugees since October 2015, with plans to complete a total of 10,000 by the end of 2016. "We want to know two things," she says. "First, what skills are people bringing with them? Second, what are the market's needs? Then we try to bring the two together." Hamburg has around 15,000 vacant jobs that are officially registered. Prior to the refugees' arrival, Lotzkat says, there was generally "no professional use for people without an officially recognized qualification." But the thinking has since grown more pragmatic. "Today, we no longer ask: What are you? Instead we ask: What can you do?"

This can lead to some unexpected solutions at times. Lotzkat cites an example: An Afghan man who had been injured in the war, visited a health care supply store in Hamburg to have his prosthetic leg fitted. While he was there, they determined that he himself had been a professional health technician. The man tried to land an internship with the company, but it turned out that his technical knowledge was out of date by about 25 years. However, many elderly people still wear old prosthetic limbs that today's medical technicians have no experience working with. But the Afghan man is fully capable. The company ultimately wound up giving him a job.

When asked if she thinks Germany can manage its refugee crisis, Lotzkat says, "yes." The experts, she says, "have been telling us for many years that we need net immigration of several hundred thousand people per year in order to ensure that Germany remains in good shape for the future. Now the people are coming and this is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss."

By Moritz Aisslinger, Uwe Buse, Markus Dettmer, Anke Dürr, Fiona Ehlers, Ullrich Fichtner, Moritz Gerlach, Matthias Geyer, Özlem Gezer, Hauke Goos, Maik Großekathöfer, Guido Mingels, Dialika Neufeld, Miriam Olbrisch, Christian Reiermann, Cornelia Schmergal, Barbara Supp, Wolf Wiedmann-Schmid and Takis Würger

Die Wiedergabe wurde unterbrochen.