ENHANCING COOPERATION FOR HUMANITARIAN ADMISSION: Report on the visit to resettlement actors in Lebanon by representatives of Caritas Germany (March 2014)

During February-March 2014, representatives of Caritas Friedland, Hildesheim and Osnabrück visited Lebanon to meet with organisations involved in case referral, selection and processing for refugees from Syria. The purpose of the visit was to enhance communication and cooperation between actors in Lebanon and Germany in the context of the Humanitarian Admission Programmes (HAP) for 10,000 Syrian refugees, which was announced by the German government in 2013.

Caritas delegates involved in the reception and integration of refugees in Germany met with relevant actors, including UNHCR Lebanon, IOM, staff at the German embassy and of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), as well as the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre, and gained an insight into both the processes and mechanisms in use in Lebanon and the conditions of refugees living there. The Caritas delegation has since published a report and presentation detailing discussions and outcomes of the visit - click here to download a copy (report in German), while you can continue reading below to learn more about its content. 

Humanitarian Admission Programmes for Germany....

In March and December 2013, in response to UNHCR's call for states to provide 130,000 resettlement or other admission places during 2013-16, the German government announced two Humanitarian Admission Programmes (HAPs) providing places for 5,000 Syrian refugees each (total 10,000 places). Both HAP1 and HAP2 offer two-year temporary residency in Germany for those selected as part of the programme. At the time of this report, approximately 2000 Syrians have arrived into Germany via HAP1.[1]

HAP selection in Lebanon - how does it work, and what are the challenges?

Refugees admitted under HAP1 have been selected through registration with either the German embassy, Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre or UNHCR Lebanon. UNHCR is responsible for screening and interviewing refugees, using UNHCR resettlement criteria as well as guidelines set by the German government. The BAMF office in Nürnberg makes all final selection decisions, and a BAMF officer in Lebanon assigns individual refugees to be received by a specific German federal state. The German embassy and Lebanese authorities together check any potential barriers for legal departure to Germany, while IOM makes travel arrangements, carries out pre-departure medical checks and delivers a three-day pre-departure Cultural Orientation (CO) programme to prepare groups of refugees for travel to, and arrival in Germany. To date, the majority of refugees have departed to Germany on charter flights organised by IOM, with a smaller number through individual travel arrangements.

Despite strong cooperation and communication between all actors in Lebanon, selection and pre-departure arrangements remain a logistical challenge. As the selection process can take several months, notifying Syrian refugees dispersed across Lebanon that they have been accepted for humanitarian admission can be difficult, while the family composition of refugee households selected for HAP has often changed throughout this process, presenting challenges for IOM in arranging medical check-ups, CO and visa applications.

Reception & integration of refugees arriving via HAP...

Refugees travelling to Germany via HAP1 spend two weeks in a centralised reception facility (in Friedland or Bramsche). To date, the majority have benefited from good initial reception and orientation, and timely transfer to support at the local level. HAP 2[2] will operate slightly differently, in that refugees will travel independently, without pre-departure support from IOM, going directly to municipalities where support will be provided by identified family members and/or local support services.

Caritas recommendations...

The report notes that decisions on where refugees arriving through HAP will be placed in Germany are currently communicated to local actors just a few days before their arrival, effectively leaving little time to engage relevant actors, plan reception arrangements and make adequate arrangements for specific medical or other needs that refugees may have. Caritas therefore recommends more direct communication between actors working in the pre-departure and post-arrival phases, and more timely and efficient exchange of information on refugees’ needs and backgrounds ahead of their arrival. Caritas also highlights the need for refugees to be provided with more accurate information on living conditions in Germany, ideally prior to their decision to participate in the programme.

Currently, refugees arriving to Germany, either through the regular resettlement programme or HAP, are granted temporary residency rather than full refugee status, creating obstacles both for family reunification and long-term, permanent residency. Caritas recommends a review of the legal status granted to arrivals through both programmes, so as to relieve the insecurity that refugees may feel about their future in Germany and the situation of family members still residing in the region. Finally, Caritas recommends an overall review of Germany’s experiences in resettlement and HAP to date, to facilitate evidence-based improvements at all stages of both programmes.

[1] The 5,000 individuals admitted under HAP1 include 1,700 persons referred by the German embassy – these individuals have family links in Germany and are responsible for their own travel; 300 individuals referred by Caritas Lebanon; and 3,000 individuals referred by UNHCR.

[2] HAP2 will be composed of 1,000 individuals referred by UNHCR and 4,000 individuals referred by the German embassies in the region.

Pictures: © Caritas Friedland