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Why many asylum seekers work illicitly in Germany

At least 100,000 of newly arrived asylum seekers in Germany are working illicitly (Schwarzarbeit), a report by NDR television has revealed. They mainly work in eateries, discos and families.


The “NDR Info” program learnt from social workers and refugee helpers that up to 30 percent of the 1.1 million refugees who arrived in Germany last year were working without being properly registered with the authorities.

This means that at least 100,000 refugees could be working for employers who don’t make health and pension contributions. Such employers also don’t pay taxes, DW reported.

“Many profit from the plight of refugees,” said Emilia Mitrovic of the German DGB trade union federation’s advisory center in Hamburg, referring to employers who dodged welfare payments. Most of the work involved menial tasks.

A staff member of HUMAN-CARE GmbH which runs 39 hostels in the district of Harburg, south of Hamburg, was fired after he was accused of taking kickbacks for arranging illicit work for camp residents.

An unnamed refugee said the man offered him an unregistered job at a discotheque in Hamburg’s Reeperbahn district. “In exchange, I was supposed to pay half of the wage to him. I wasn’t willing to do that,” he said.

A social worker in Hamburg said up to 50 percent of asylum seekers sought illicit work at some stage.

“They have to provide for their families back home” as well as refund people-traffickers, the social worker said. “Some of them become really desperate, and leave the accommodation and are gone for two or three weeks, or leave in the morning and return in the evening,” she added.

An asylum seeker from Burkina Faso told NDR that said refugees needed gainful work to avoid camp monotony.

“We want to work. We don’t want to stay the whole time in camp and only sleep and eat, eat and sleep,” he told NDR Info. “Eventually, one turns insane.”

He revealed to the television that he earned 150 euros a month in Hamburg by helping in kitchens or loading containers and slept in a mattress dorm.

“I don’t want to work illicitly. I know what it do is not correct, criminal. But, otherwise I won’t find work,” the Burkina Faso national said.