by Kelly Beach in Mockern, Germany

Few international topics have received as much attention in the past months as the Syrian refugee situation. The crisis in Syria reached a boiling point in 2011, as religious and ethnic factions took arms against each other and the government in a devastating civil war. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrian citizens were caught in the middle and were forced to flee. Many refugees headed for nearby countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. However, these countries hardly had enough infrastructure to contain the millions of displaced peoples, and many looked toward Europe in hope of gaining entrance. In 2015 alone, over 1 million refugees applied for asylum. As the masses of desperate people flocked to Europe, the continent’s reaction was equally disjointed and chaotic. Many countries accepted few or no refugees whatsoever, and the burden fell largely on Germany, which had the largest accommodations.

In 2015, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, braved the flood of desperate families and opened Germany’s gates in a concerned act of humanitarian relief. Germany initially expected to accept around 450,000 people, which was quickly expanded to 800,000 as the crisis grew larger. Many German citizens are divided about their leader’s decision, and public support waned as the summer of 2015 dragged on. A year later, the people’s divided sentiment shows clearly in graffiti, stickers, and signs throughout many cities. Many in the world praised Germany for their efforts, but the massive influx was overwhelming. Thousands of refugees do not have official documents, making the entrance process even harder for them.

Though most refugees in Europe are from Syria, they are joined by citizens of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo who also fled to escape the rampant violence in their countries.

Among European nations, Germany has received by far the most applications from refugee
families and has already accepted over a million people. This is largely due to their streamlined application system, stable economy, and political and religious freedoms.

As a student in Germany, I have had the opportunity to talk to a Syrian citizen who left Damascus in late 2015 and arrived in Germany in hopes that he could one day return to his country. He prefaced his story by stating that he only spoke for himself and not on behalf of any other refugees and his opinions are entirely his own. He felt sorry for the German people for having to deal with so many of them arriving so suddenly. Though he is learning German, he wishes to return to Syria as soon as it is safe again. When asked about his homeland and the tragic turn of events that led him to flee the country, he briefly explained his story and no longer wished to discuss the topic.

Syria today is still a place where conflict rages on, and despite numerous international initiatives, there has been little progress to end the violence. Syrians today are the highest refugee population in the world and the highest in history since the Second World War. While Germany and other European nations have accommodated some of the refugee population, many simply want the fighting to end so they can return home.