Case Study on Forced Migration of Syrian Refugees

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has found a grand total of 68. 5 million people who have been displaced from their homes. According to the UNHCR (2018), for every two passing seconds, a person is forcibly displaced from their country due to conflict or persecution. One example of a group of people experiencing such forced migration is those fleeing from Syria. Migration can be defined “as a permanent or semi-permanent change of residence. No restriction is placed upon the distance of the move or upon the voluntary or involuntary nature of the act, and no distinction is made between external and internal migration. ” (Lee, 1966). In the context of this essay, we will also be including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) definition of migration, in which the people involved in the movement includes those of refugees, displaced persons, uprooted people as well as economic migrants. This essay will discuss the movement of Syrian refugees fleeing to Germany as a case study to provide a better understanding of the process of migration. Afterwards, a sociological concept will be used to find out how and why this particular migration occurred. Lastly, we will examine the implications of globalisation on the process of migration in the context of the aforementioned case study—in which this essay supports that globalisation has brought about negative consequences.

Case Study

A significant, ongoing case study that highlights forced migration is the Syrian civil war that has now entered its eight year of conflict. (Aljazeera. com, 2018)In March 2011, the ‘Arab Spring’ that broke out in nearby countries inspired pro-democracy activists in Syria to have hope in making a change in their own government, which seemed to make little to no progress in solving social problems plaguing the country, such as high unemployment and lack of political freedom (BBC News, 2018). When activists held demonstrations, the Syrian government, under President Bashar al-Assad, responded with brutal violence “by killing hundreds of demonstrators and imprisoning many more. ” (Aljazeera. com, 2018). Outraged, the Free Syrian Army rebel group was formed in an attempt to overthrow the government, which sparked the beginning of the civil war (Aljazeera. com, 2018). The war has dealt countless of dreadful consequences and misfortune on the people of Syria. According to the UNHCR (2018), over 6. 6 million people have been internally displaced inside Syria, while 5. 6 million have fled the war-torn country to nearby countries and beyond in search of better, safer lives. Countries hosting the largest numbers of refugees include Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, Lebanon, Iran and Germany (Europarl. europa. eu, 2017). This essay will study the situation of Syrian refugees in Germany. In 2015, when Europe faced its biggest refugee crisis with an estimate of over one million migrants trying to enter Europe to escape the war (Europarl. europa. eu, 2017), German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened up Germany’s borders to accept in Syrian refugees into the country. According to the Los Angeles Times (2015), there were 100,000 Syrian asylum seekers in Germany between the years 2011 and 2015; however, in August 2015 alone, the country saw 100,000 refugees entering the country.

Germany thus became the first EU country to suspend a protocol from 1990 stating that refugees may only seek asylum in the first European country in which they set foot (The Independent, 2015). One Syrian refugee shares his story of attempting to integrate into Germany with CNN (2017). Yahya, who requested to leave out his last name, is a 22-year old Syrian refugee who has found a new home in Bautzen, a town located in East Germany. CNN (2017) has found that Yahya has integrated well into his new environment; he is now proficient in German and is working two jobs that earns him an adequate amount of earnings to allow him to rent an apartment. However, Yahya laments that he has been living in fear in Bautzen, opting to stay at home at night instead of going out as there are locals who are hostile towards refugees such as himself. He recounts a personal experience that left him shaken, where a group of young locals had “taunted him before setting a group of dogs on him. ” (CNN, 2017). He said, “I thought I had left my problems behind in Syria. I came here to live in peace. ” (CNN, 2017). It is found that such hostility towards refugees is unfortunately widespread across Germany. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (BKA), more than 3,700 attacks on refugees were recorded in 2016 alone, which is an increase of 200% as compared to attacks reported in 2015 (1,249) (CNN, 2017). Even Bautzen saw protests and a refugee shelter being burnt down. The mayor of Bautzen, Mayor Alexander Ahrens, concluded that the locals’ attitudes were a result of the city being afraid, not resistant. (CNN, 2017).

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Social Science Concept

To better understand the movement of displaced Syrians from their country of origin to Germany (host country), we will be focusing on the sociological theory of Everett Lee (1966), where he uses the push and pull approach to examine the motivations involved in the process of migration. In this theory, he grouped up the various reasons for migration into four categories (Sert, 2010):(1) Factors associated with the area of origin(2) Factors associated with the area of destination(3) Intervening obstacles(4) Personal factorsLee (1966) theorised that there are ‘push’ factors that may prompt or urge a person to leave his country, while ‘pull’ factors are those that attract migrants to the country of destination.

According to Castles and Miller (1998), examples of ‘push’ factors in the country of origin may include low living standards, political repression and lack of economic opportunities, while those of ‘pull’ factors at the country of destination may include demand for labour, promising economic opportunities and political freedom (Sert, 2010). In addition, according to Öberg (1996), these push and pull factors may be further divided into hard and soft factors. Hard factors include dire events such as humanitarian crises and armed conflicts, while less critical situations such as poverty and unemployment make up soft factors (Bijak, 2006). Additionally, it is further described that “[t]he dominance of particular factors determines to some extent the characteristics of the migrating population: the favourable pull factors at destination tend to attract migrants who are positively selected in terms of human capital or motivation. This is not the case, when the unfavourable push factors at origin play a crucial role in instigating the migration process. ” (Bijak, 2006). Through the case study in Germany described earlier, we can observe from Yahya’s story, as well as many other Syrian refugees, that the hard ‘push’ factor that urged him to flee from Syria is the civil war that has been brewing for several years. The raging conflict has placed the country in a critical enough situation that led to millions of Syrians to seek refuge elsewhere, having deemed it unsafe to continue living in Syria any longer. ‘Pull’ factors that have attracted the Syrian refugees to Germany may include the fact that Germany has a standing as one of the strongest EU countries (Latimes. com, 2015). According to the Guardian (2015), what appeals Syrians to move into Germany is the fact that “they could seek asylum in a country offering the combination of safety, work prospects and education”. As such, many refugees may find the risky journey into Germany worth it. As a result, when Merkel declared the open-door policy in 2015 as a response to the overwhelming influx of refugees into Europe, Syrians may have seen it instantly as an opportunity to lead better, safer lives as compared to back in their ruined homes in Syria.

Global Impact

While migrating to Germany has proven to bring ample opportunities for most refugees in terms of the economic and political, what comes with it is social unrest as well, brought about by the locals of many towns receiving refugees. As we can see in Yahya’s personal recount of facing hostility by the town locals, it can be argued that globalisation has aggravated the process of migration for the Syrian refugees residing in Germany due to the development of Islamophobia, which was brought about with the presence of the media. To bring globalisation into context, it can be defined as the “widening, deepening and speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life. ” (Held et al, 1999). It may thus also include the sharing of information through media, a platform brought about by technological advances aided by globalisation, where the accessibility of online content can be made available to everyone and anyone, in any part of the globe. In the context of the earlier case study mentioned, globalisation has worsened the migration process for Syrian refugees in Germany by allowing Islamophobia to spread with the help of the media.

For instance, Spiegel Online, one of the most well-read online news sites in Germany, shares that there exists an anti-Islam website in the country called ‘Politically Incorrect’. The website is said to read: “The spread of Islam means that our descendants—and probably us too—will live in an Islam-dominated social order oriented towards the Sharia and the Koran and no longer towards the constitution and human rights. ” It is also reported that Politically Incorrect receives up to 120,000 visitors a day (Spiegel Online, 2015). Additionally, there have been reports of a photoshopped image of Angela Merkel wearing an Iranian Islamic headscarf being aired on a news programme in Germany, which sparked controversy among the public (Telegraph. co. uk, 2015). Telegraph also mentioned that although the broadcaster defended by saying it was only satirical, viewers complained that the image was much alike to posters produced by Pegida, an anti-Islam, anti-immigrant movement, also known as the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West. In summary, it can be argued that globalisation has provided a platform for Germans to develop mistrust and hostility towards the Syrian refugees because of the image of Islam brought upon them by the media. The consequences that follow this are adverse for the refugees, who have fled their ruined countries in hopes of a new life in Germany—only to be harassed and persecuted by the locals.


Among the various types of migration, those that are driven by unfavourable social or political circumstances in the country of origin are often the ones resulting in the biggest displacement of people. The forced migration of Syrian refugees from their country of conflict to Germany is only one such example of many other cases of people being displaced from their homes. Using Lee’s push and pull theory, it can be observed that what drives the migrants out of their country is the conflict of war, while things that may motivate a person to flee to a particular country depends on what that destination has to offer, such as job prospects and safety. With the power of the media, globalisation has brought about negative consequences for the Syrian refugees, who are increasingly being treated with hostility by many local Germans due to the spread of Islamophobia. Despite their hopes of looking forward to a new life, the refugees continue to experience problems by the society around them that seem almost impossible to solve.

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