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BAMF: Refugees integrating well in Germany but COVID-19 threatens the process

Refugees in Germany are integrating quite well. A new research by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees – BAMF shows that refugees’ knowledge of German is getting better and better. It also shows that refugees have more social contacts with Germans.

The new report is based on the analysis carried by the Research Center of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees on previously unpublished data from the IAB-BAMF-SOEP survey of refugees from 2019. The survey took into consideration refugees who had lived in Germany for an average of four years.

At least 47 percent of those surveyed rated their German language skills as good or very good in 2019.

The report also shows that 90 percent of men and 79 percent of women took part in at least one language course between 2016 and 2019.

“It is very gratifying that over 80 percent of the refugees have at least medium knowledge of German,” said Dr Nina Rother, the project manager. “However, not everyone succeeds in learning the language at the same speed – women with small children, refugees with a lower level of education and those over 50 years of age had no or poor knowledge of German in 2019.”

Dr Rother said the efforts to enable refugees learn German language should be focused on these groups.

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The report shows a close link between the contact with Germans and the refugees’ language skills. Between 2016 and 2019, refugees increasingly spent time with Germans. In particular, the place of work or apprenticeship emerge as the places where there is contact and exchange between refugees and Germans. At the same time, the proportion of Germans among the refugees’ close relatives is increasing.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions in social contacts however made refugees have less contact with Germans in summer 2020.

Many refugees also feared that their knowledge of German would stagnate or deteriorate. In addition, the analysis indicate that those subgroups with a low starting level could be particularly hard hit by the consequences of the pandemic.

“Since social contacts with Germans play an important role in helping refugees settle in in Germany, it is to be hoped that the negative consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic will last as short as possible and that there will be more exchanges afterwards,” said Dr Manuel Siegert, a sociologist and researcher in the field of Integration and Social Cohesion.

The full report can be consulted here.