Asylum seekers who want to work in Germany have to overcome an heaping pile of bureaucracy: “not until three months after their applications are accepted are they able to accept a job”, says Dolores Longares-Bäumler, director of the the refugee and migration work division of Caritas in Bayreuth. While their asylum applications are still being processed, refugees are only able to accept money in the form of a temporary stipend. They are barred from the job market for the first three months. Only once they receive a positive response to their applications, are considered “recognised refugees”, and are granted a residence permit, are they allowed to work without restrictions.
Miran* from Iraq is currently experiencing this. For him it’s still not possible to work here, because he only came to Bayreuth with his family very recently: “back home I was an IT professor”, says Miran. “It’s my dream to get my doctorate here in Germany at some point”. But not everyone who’s eager to work is as highly qualified as Miran. “It’s important to support each and every refugee individually”, says Ulrike Pandjeli from the Social Welfare Office for Refugees who, like Dolores Longares-Bäumler, is a direct point of contact for refugees at the Caritas’ Bayreuth office. The primary requisite for getting a job is learning German: “otherwise they are given only temporary remedial work”, says Pandjeli. But in the meantime refugees have been receiving a lot of support finding a job: “aside from the obligatory integration course, in which refugees become familiar with the language, culture, and laws, the opportunities to get involved with voluntary projects have grown drastically”.
The company schlaeger – a medium-sized company in Bayreuth that manufactures auto parts – is currently involved in such a project. At the start of 2016, six young asylum seekers completed training programs there. “Everything worked out really well”, says Human Resources Manager Stefan Günter. “The kids were motivated, punctual, and always friendly”. Schlaeger’s upper management wants to eventually offer refugees apprenticeships as machine and plant operators. Although there are still many questions that have to be answered, Stefan Günter is very optimistic: “projects like this have a future precisely because there is such a lack of trained employees in many technical fields”.
Folani* from Ethiopia would be content with a simpler line of work. He’s been living in Germany for five years – currently in Bayreuth – and has earned his money through various odd jobs. Although he speaks only very little German, he was happy in his last position at a warehouse: “But then I was out sick for a month”, says Folani, “and I was let go”. He’s currently seeking a new job. In Ethiopia he was a car salesman – in Germany he’s thankful for the many opportunities: “it’s a good feeling to work and earn money”.
Through specialised continuing education programs and German employers there is the possibility of providing professional opportunities to all people who have fled to Germany because of war, terror, or poverty. “But we can't forget that the people here have to first integrate”, says Dolores Longares-Bäumler. “This is a lot easier when they're supported through diverse integration programs and job opportunities”.
*Names changed by the editors
You can see in this video how refugees spend their time while they wait for their work permits.