Germany will implement new border controls with Poland and the Czech Republic this week, its interior minister announced on Wednesday, saying that more should be done to protect the European Union's fragile system of open borders.
According to official data, Germany saw its first-time asylum requests rise by 78% in the first seven months of 2023. In August, registered illegal border crossings to Germany reached 14,701, up 66% on the same month last year, police data shows.
This picture starkly contrasts the situation some eight years ago, when Syrian refugees were welcomed en masse into Germany by its then-chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Today, there are over a million Syrian refugees in Germany, making up one of Europe's largest communities of displaced people.
Despite being dispersed throughout the country and separated by large distances, strong ties unite the Syrian communities after their collective migration experience, which involved millions of people over a relatively brief period.
Syrians are assimilating into German society as their lives find stability, in a process that may affect how they see their homeland. As it remains war-torn and fragmented – and they come to terms with their sorrowful history there – it is plausible that people will see their past as akin to living in a vast prison, rather than a home country.
At the same time, their hosts have ensured they have a path to residency, employment and citizenship. While there have been problems, it has been a more successful wave of immigration into the European economic powerhouse than those that came before it.
The Syrian community is still growing, via increased births and the arrival of relatives under the terms of family reunification laws covering spouses and children.
At the same time, Syrians are still coming to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans to escape the war and other threats, including discrimination and racism in nearer countries, like Lebanon and Turkey.
A preferred destination
Germany is their preferred destination, even as it and other European nations are prone to the rise of populist and far-right parties, semi-racist movements and political parties, partly because of increased immigration.
Nevertheless, since 2015, the number of Syrians receiving German citizenship has risen steadily. Many can speak German. A substantial proportion have found work. This part of the community is no longer well-served by the term refugee. They are becoming integrated into their new country, which becomes part of their identity.
Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders to Syrian refugees in 2015.