The Logics of Relatedness in Conditions of Forced Migration. Syrian Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon

Verantwortlicher Elisabeth Nössing, M.A.
Trägerschaft Institut für Islamwissenschaft und Neuere Orientalische Philologie; École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales
Betreuung Prof. Dr. Anke von Kügelgen, Prof. Dr. Tassadit Yacine, Prof. Dr. Édouard Conte
Finanzierung Schweizerischer Nationalfonds

Das Projekt «The Logics of Relatedness in Conditions of Forced Migration. Syrian Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon» wurde aus Sicherheitsgründen wie folgt abgeändert.

Syrian refugees in Berlin: An anthropology of housing

Berlin has seen the influx of approximately 55 000 asylum seekers in 2015and16 700 in 2016due to the so-called « refugee crisis », in 2017, still 8 300 asylum seekers arrived to Berlin and 2 600 in the first four months of 2018. Syrians have been not only the most prominentin the media but also the numerically most significant group among them: the number of Syrians (exluded German citizens of Syrian origin) registered in Berlin rose from 6 471 in 2014  (among them 2 445 women) to 32 704 in 2017 (among them 12 288 women). Most importantly, Syrians havehad an outstanding high acceptance rate (refugee status and subsidiary protection) of more than 99% since 2015.

With regards to housing, it is crucial to underline the more liberal policy of the state of Berlin in comparison to other German states: first, asylum seekers are directly assigned to collective accommodation centres (Gemeinschaftsunterkünfte) located throughout all districts of Berlin, i.e. they are not directed to initial reception centres (Erstaufnahmeeinrichtungen) for a period of six weeks to six months as outlined in § 47 AsylG (law governing asylum); second, asylum seekers are not bound to live in housing provided by the state office until the asylum process is finalised but may move into private housing after a period of six months. 

While housing policies are liberal, the authorities in Berlin provide recognised refugees with little assistance to find private accommodationbut leave this time-consuming yet integral step in settling down in large parts to the individual responsibility of each refugee. Volunteers provide punctual assistance, yet, those refugees who do not feel up to or do not want to wait for several months (or more than a year) to find an apartment engage with irregular brokers. While « Willkommenskultur » has faded, many are still stuck in cumulative refugee housing. 

In turn, the strategy of LAF (Ministry for Refugee Affairs), Senat and Bezirke since 2015 has been characterised by « refugee managment » in the first place, i.e. short-term interventions in order to remedy the acute accomodation crisis caused by a massive and unexpected influx of asylum seekers in 2015 and early 2016. Already in 2016, transferring asylum seekers from « Notunterkünfte » to mid-term accommodation centres ensuring more privacy and cooking facilities has been a priority, yet, most of the transfers have been delayed until end of 2017 due to delays in building mid-term options. Regarding long-term housing perspectives, the « Masterplan Integration » put forward in 2016 envisaged the transfer of asylum seekers into container camps and quickly-build housing units meaning eventually a perpetuation of bulk refugee housing instead of an integration into diverse neighbourhoods. An updated version of the « Masterplan Integration » is due for spring 2018 but has not yet been completed. The new red-red-green government of Berlin in office since 2017 has made it its priority to remedy the general shortage of affordable housing in Berlin which is supposedto also remedy the crisis in refugee housing. 

Building on critical migration research and anthropology of policy, I aim to study Syrian refugees as both objects and subjects of refugee housing policies in Berlin. Hence, I want to scrutinise refugee housing politics in Berlin as exemplified by Syrian refugees, document how the accomodation situation has evolved three years after the « European migration crisis », identify the actors involved and analyse the dynamics at play.By appreciating the refugees’ agency and offering an in-depth ethnography of refugee housing as a most crucial step towards integration into urban life, I thus hope to shed light on the complex realities in Berlin far from abstract models of integration.