‘It’s about offering people new prospects’
'A safe place for refugees'
An interview with Arno Tomowski, GIZ
Worldwide, there are around 65 million displaced persons and refugees – the highest number since the Second World War. Why are people leaving home?
They’re doing so because they see no prospects for themselves and especially for their children. Leaving home, with all the substantial risks that this entails, is an extremely difficult decision; that’s something we should never forget. There are many underlying causes: some people are affected by war and violence, and their human rights are abused. Others have no work, and food is scarce. Water crises are on the increase. Environmental conditions are worsening as well, partly as a consequence of climate change and the loss of natural resources. One of these factors on its own – except for armed conflict and widespread violence – does not usually cause people to flee. They do so, if there are no restrictions on their mobility, because they have no prospects and have given up hope that their situation will change for the better.
And what about the countries and regions that are hosting large numbers of refugees – what do they need?
Most of these countries face tremendous challenges even without the influx of refugees. Of the 60 million refugees and displaced persons worldwide, 38 million remain within their national borders, but often these home countries cannot provide adequate services for them.
The situation is especially difficult in South Sudan, where the civil war has displaced two million people within the country. So we are working on behalf of the BMZ to provide a million people with sanitation, clean water and seeds so that they can start to become self-sufficient again, not only today but perhaps in future as well. This benefits local communities and the internally displaced persons. We must be careful, however, not to worsen the situation by providing one-sided support. GIZ always tries to strengthen communities right from the start. We don’t just provide support for refugees and internally displaced persons; we also focus on the host communities. Yes, conflicts can arise, that’s quite normal, but it’s about managing them constructively.
Take Jordan for example: it already faces very severe water scarcity, and now it’s hosting a large number of refugees from Syria. On behalf of the BMZ, GIZ is training water management specialists from Jordan and Syria. Everyone benefits: the project helps to bridge the skills gap, water losses from leaky pipes are reduced, and people gain access to jobs and prospects for the future.
More and more people are arriving in Europe as well. Every day, we hear reports about the perils these refugees face on the journey and how the transit countries are struggling to cope – and this has been going on for months.
The BMZ is assisting communities in Serbia and Macedonia to address these challenges and also to create structures that offer more than just humanitarian aid. Emergency housing for refugees is being built and existing accommodation is being winter-proofed. GIZ has been commissioned to provide flexible mobile services at the border crossings in Serbia and Macedonia. These teams include nurses and legal advisors, who provide guidance and other services to around 200 people a day; this includes handing out rainproof clothing and hygiene packs.