Having pledged 20,000 humanitarian admission places for Syrian refugees to date, Germany has taken a leading role in offering protection to persons fleeing the ongoing conflict in Syria. By May 2014, over 2000 refugees had arrived in the framework of the first Humanitarian Admission Programme (HAP I). Such large scale admissions within a relatively limited time period has created challenges for local reception capacity, and has made communication and cooperation between actors involved in all stages of the process a vital component in ensuring effective protection.
Against this backdrop, on 5-6 June 2014 Caritas Friedland, AWO (National Network Focal Point), UNHCR, Diakonie and ProAsyl, in cooperation with the European Resettlement Network and the SHARE Network, facilitated a 2-day conference at the centralised refugee reception facility in Friedland, Germany, where refugees admitted through relevant programmes spend the first two weeks following their arrival. Participants were drawn from representatives of national, regional and local governmental authorities, IOM, NGOs, volunteers and other actors involved in the HAP and resettlement processes in Germany.
The first half of day one was aimed at providing participants with an insight into the objecties and work of several actors involved in the resettlement process, including UNHCR, IOM, the Ministry for the Interior, BAMF and representatives of four federal states. Each of these actors shared their role regarding practical implementation and commented on the future of resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes in Germany. The afternoon programme focused on reception and integration processes and included interventions from several municipalities, Caritas Friedland, local support services, NGOs and refugees themselves, all of whom shared their experiences, achievements and current challenges with regard to the reception of refugees.
Day two of the conference was dedicated to a set of small discussion groups in which all participants were able to share their own experiences and pose questions to other actors regarding four topics, including: (1) Balancing encouragement and expectation management (2) Structural frameworks for long-term integration perspectives at the local level; (3) Information sharing and networking; and (4) Family separation and reunification. Each roundtable produced recommendations for future practices and approaches to improve programmes. Presentations given at the conference can be accessed here (presentations in German). The recommendations produced by the roundtables together with a more in-depth conference report for the European Resettlement Network will be published shortly.