Today it is (not) easier – observations on "older" and "younger" migrants in Germany

Today it is (not) easier – observations on "older" and "younger" migrants in Germany

As part of the MIMY project, the ILS team also conducted focus groups with new migrants and with migrants who had already moved some time ago. In a focus group, several people discuss a specific topic - in this case migration and integration in Dortmund. The group of new migrants was composed of refugees from Syria who came to Germany around 2015; the "older migrants" are people who have been liv-ing in Germany for a longer time.

Here I would like to report on what differences and similarities I have noticed be-tween the two groups in terms of difficulties, challenges or living conditions. First, the similarities: Discrimination was reported in both groups. The examples often referred to school, e.g. the participants or their children were discriminated against by teachers or classmates at German schools because of poor German language skills or because of their physical appearance such as having black hair or wearing a headscarf. One participant who has lived in Germany for more than twenty years mentioned that she was discriminated against in the tenth grade. She was so frus-trated by this that she left school without graduating. There were also such state-ments from the group of refugees. One participant stated that her children had diffi-culty building relationships with classmates because of bullying. The statements of the two groups were also similar with regard to experiences with authorities. There were reports of poor treatment by staff and of their requests being neglected com-pared to those of Germans.

And now for the differences that I noticed between the two groups. The older immi-grants told of difficulties they had faced many years ago. In particular, this concerned the lack of integration structures. There was a lack of language schools, government integration services, and associations to assist migrants with bureaucratic proce-dures or to organize activities for them. A Syrian woman I met only recently, who has lived in Dortmund for 18 years, told me that she is envious of the new refugees be-cause they get attention and support such as German courses. At that time, she would also have liked to see such offers, for example, to meet other refugees from her country in a club and have coffee there. For her, the greatest suffering when she arrived was the feeling of alienation and being alone, because there were hardly any Syrian migrants living in Dortmund at the time.

However, this does not mean that the new refugees do not feel alienated. This is al-so confirmed by the statements of the participants in the focus groups, who also ex-pressed such feelings. I can confirm this personally because I also came to Germany as a refugee a few years ago. Despite the many refugees, the feeling of being a stranger does not leave us. Perhaps this is because we know that we cannot visit the country from which we fled. This is also different from older immigrants, who often spend their vacations in their home countries.

Another point I would like to mention is that migrants who have lived in Germany for a long time sometimes do not feel safe. The mother of a friend who has lived in Dortmund for 23 years told me that there are many reasons for this. But one reason is also the threat from right-wing extremists. This also sometimes makes it difficult to love one's new home.

Overall, the comparison of perspectives was interesting for me as a "new" migrant. On the one hand, I recognise many similarities to the group of older migrants. On the other hand, there are also some differences. For example, there are now many more offers for migrants and refugees, so that integration is easier today. In my opinion, the differences have to do with the fact that refugees have completely different rea-sons for leaving their home country than other migrants. The latter can plan their departure, for example, to look for a job or education and perhaps return to the home country after a few years. Refugees do not have this choice: they are looking for the opportunity to live safely elsewhere and they do not know if or when they will return home. These differences change not only the bureaucratic procedures but also the living conditions here in Germany.

Photo of Sherin Ibesh
The authorSherin Ibesh

This blog post was written by a Young Peer Researcher, who was recruited as a stu-dent assistant in 2021. The Peer Researchers with their own migration histories made a valuable contribution to the research carried out at ILS within the MIMY pro-ject research in Germany.