IN DEPTH NEWS FROM GERMANY
Half of Ukrainian refugees want to remain in Germany
September 2023: Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, more than one million people have fled from the war-torn country to Germany, most of them being women and children. Research carried out this year indicates that nearly half of the refugees would like to remain in Germany for at least several years or even forever. Even of those who do not want to stay in Germany forever, some 30 per cent hope to be able to maintain close contact with Germany and perhaps live intermittently in the country.
The family situation and social integration play a major role for the refugees` intentions to stay. Refugees who fled without their partners are more likely to want to return to their home country. On the other hand, refugees who are looking for education or training opportunities, those who have a good knowledge of German and those who feel welcome in the country are more likely to want to stay forever.
The findings are part of research that was carried earlier this year and involved questioning some 6,500 Ukrainian refugees. The research was carried out by the Institute of Applied Social Science (Infas) and funded by the German government.
There has been substantial progress in German language learning. Three out of four Ukrainian refugees attended or completed one or more German courses by early 2023, most often combined language and integration teaching. Refugees’ self-assessment of their German language skills has improved since the late summer of 2022. While only few refugees (8 per cent) rate their German proficiency as “good” or “very good”, more than 27 per cent rate their German as “okay” (compared to 14 per cent in mid-2022). The proportion of refugees who claim to know no German has than halved to 18 per cent.
Since a large part of the refugees were still participating in integration courses when the research was carried out, the share of those who have finished with degrees should have increased in the meantime. Visiting additional language courses as well as exchanges in private and the future professional life should improve German skills even further.
Due to the time taken up by language and integration courses, the employment rate among Ukrainians has only increased slightly. In the summer of 2022, some 17 per cent of 18 to 64-year-olds were employed. Nine months later, the figure stood at 18 per cent. But even moderate language proficiency will improve labour market opportunities for many refugees. Indeed, more than two-thirds of Ukrainians, who were not employed at the beginning of 2023, wanted to start work immediately or within months.
Children and adolescents make up a significant proportion of the refugees: About every second Ukrainian woman has come to Germany with at least one child. Almost half of these children are under the age of ten. Most children and adolescents, according to their parents, have a “good” or “very good” general health.
While almost all school-aged children from Ukraine attend a general or vocational school, only a few parents make use of daycare facilities. Only half of children aged, six years or younger, were attending childcare outside the home at the beginning of 2023. The research authors comment that the supply of enough daycare places is important for parents to be able to attend language courses and to take up employment – and for children to learn the language, to have a structured everyday life
The survey’s authors also stress that the government must quickly decide on the extension of temporary protection of Ukrainian refugees beyond March 2024 or to create other long-term residence prospects. “Investment in social participation and employment requires planning and legal certainty as well as reliable residence prospects – both for refugees themselves and for the German society at large,” the researchers conclude.
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