New Models of the "Good Refugee": Bureaucratic Expectations of Syrian Refugees in Germany
Morgan Etzel (Ludwig Maximilian University Munich)
Paper short abstract:
Since the so-called crisis of 2015-2016, Syrian refugees in Germany are struggling to keep up with the changing dynamics of bureaucratic decision making. As such, a feedback loop has formed in the imaginary of both refugees and the state, with real life implications.
Paper long abstract:
Since hosting the over a million asylum applicants into Germany in 2015-2016, the government has adapted policy that seeks to quickly incorporate refugees socially and most importantly economically. The result of which is two-fold: on the one side it creates a feeling in the refugee community of ever-changing state goals and thus insecurity, and on the other it creates a feedback loop in which lower arms of state bureaucracy, such as Germany's "Jobcenter", counter productively affect the behavior of refugees. The social imaginary of what a "good refugee" is and should be is an ongoing social and political construction that has commodified refugees to be much like the "good migrant"--one who speaks the dominant language, is sufficiently employed and fits into social norms. Using the experience of observation and interviews in the German Jobcenter and with groups of Syrian refugees, this work will present some implications of how the imaginaries of a "good refugee" are shaped by institutions, socially and by the refugees themselves. Taking on a translocality perspective, the difference between individual priorities and state driven initiatives is indeed variable by location. Furthermore, the conditionality of German refugee law, in terms of ideal "integration" requires language acquisition and no use of welfare benefits, but inconsistencies and negative experiences leave some refugee with an early distrust in institutions. With rising xenophobic attitudes across Europe and lawmakers bending to populist ideologies, refugees face more precarity as they attempt to decide upon staying Germany or a prospect of returning Syria.
From good immigrants to good citizens: mapping the space of conditional inclusion