Culture or Bureaucracy? Challenges in Syrian Refugees’ Initial Settlement in Germany

In: Middle East Law and Governance
Wendy Pearlman Northwestern University,

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In 2015 and 2016, Germany received more than 1.1 million asylum applications, some 425,000 of them from Syrians. Significant optimism accompanied the peak of this refugee inflow, with many Syrians praising Germany as a haven offering freedom and dignity, and many Germans taking pride in their country’s humanitarian stance and welcoming culture. Since then, various sources of anxiety have emerged, particularly those related to locals’ concerns about threats to their country’s national culture and newcomers’ frustrations stemming from their dealings with state bureaucracy. Building on field research in Germany in 2016 and 2017, this article offers a preliminary exploration of these issues, with a focus on refugees’ experience of bureaucracy in the realms as legal status, housing, and work. The article concludes with reflections on how juxtaposition of locals and newcomers’ respective concerns can highlight unexpected spaces for exchange and mutual understanding.

On August 21, 2015, Germany opened its borders to asylum-seekers when Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government suspended for Syrians the European Union’s stipulation that refugees remain in their European country of entry. By the end of 2016 Germany had received 1,164,269 asylum applications, 36.5 percent of them from Syrians. 1 At the peak of this deluge, the mood was so upbeat that some referred to it as the “September fairy tale.” 2 For Syrians fleeing death or despair, Germany represented a place in which to build new lives with freedom and dignity. For many Germans, an open-door policy was an ethical humanitarian stance and a show of willkommenskultur hospitality in which to take pride. 3

It did not take long for this nearly euphoric optimism to begin to give way to disappointment, even anxiety. 4 By early 2016, some Germans articulated worries about threats ranging from terrorism to crime, political polarization, and loss of confidence in state institutions. 5 Especially prominent in these public conversations were expressions of the fear that the waves of newcomers might overwhelm Germany’s culture and threaten its values. Syrian asylum seekers seldom expressed such cultural concerns, and instead appeared consumed with the basic “nuts and bolts” of starting life anew. In this, their most significant challenge was not Germany’s Western, Christian-majority heritage, but the overwhelming presence of its state bureaucracy. From asylum applications to health insurance forms to professional certification and beyond, many refugees found themselves bewildered by both the amount of paperwork and the complicated mechanics of processing it.

To focus on bureaucratic hassles is not to minimize larger traumas facing Syrians who have been forced to flee their homes, such as the feelings of loss, alienation, and dislocation that Basileus Zeno discusses in his article in this collection. 6 Likewise, to focus on culture is not to disregard the immediate and serious threat of violence unsettling many Germans. The year 2016 opened with hundreds of incidents of sexual assault on New Years Eve in Cologne, and then went on to register four terrorist attacks across the country that left 22 people killed and dozens injured. Though the government was adamant in insisting that refugees are no more likely to commit terrorism than is the general population, the migrant background of some attackers gave a boon to the anti-foreigner sentiment of the far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) party and heightened the challenge to Merkel leading up to the September 2017 federal elections. 7 Meanwhile, other violence targeted newcomers, specifically. 2016 witnessed a rise in hate crimes, with some 3,500 attacks against migrants, refugees, and refugee shelters injuring at least 560 people. 8

Questions about culture and bureaucracy are not as dramatically startling as threats to physical security or the other ways that refugees suffer. Yet they are at the forefront of many people’s trepidations, and are also indicative of larger structural factors critical for the success of Germany’s experiment in refugee integration in both the short and long term. This article explores these issues, based on three months of field research in Germany in 2016 and informed by another three months in 2017. It begins with some brief context on German public conversations related to national culture, as have taken shape since the 2015 refugee crisis. It then turns to both the logistical context and the lived experience of Syrian asylum seekers’ encounter with bureaucracy, focusing on three realms of key importance during their initial residence in Germany: legal status, housing, and work. The essay concludes with reflections on how Germans and Syrians’ disparate concerns related to culture and bureaucracy might highlight unexpected spaces for exchange and mutual understanding.

Conversations about Culture

The topic of national culture and identity in Germany is fraught with historical sensitivities and political controversy. 9 Many associate valorization of “Germaneness” with Nazi ideology, despite the decades that have passed since the Second World War. 10 Correspondingly, Germans still struggle to define, no less celebrate, that which unites and distinguishes them as a nation. Citizens on the left of the political spectrum remain acutely sensitive to patriotism in general and monocultural expressions of patriotism, in particular.

These debates have taken on new dimensions since 2015. The need to integrate hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers renewed attention to the task of identifying the fundamentals of German society to which newcomers should be expected to adapt. 11 Officially, the state approach to integration, as laid out in the May 2016 Integration Act, emphasizes language and employment with the goal of self-sufficiency. 12 Accordingly, the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees (bamf)’s approved integration program consists of about 600 hours of language instruction and a 60-hour orientation on “everyday topics such as the workplace, shopping, television and radio, and childrearing” as well as lessons “about Germany as a country, from a number of perspectives: culture and politics, how people live and interact in Germany, and the values on which German society is based.” 13

The requirement that asylum seekers complete integration courses, however, has not been sufficient to assuage many locals’ fears that Germany risks being “swamped” by foreigners and foreign cultures. A November 2015 survey found that 84 percent of respondents believed that the large number of refugees would bring about “lasting changes” to the country. 14 Some even see the refugee crisis as generating a German identity crisis. 15 Illustrative in this regard is a contentious public discussion about the possible role of a leitkultur, or “leading culture” for Germany. Though the term leitkultur was once shunned for pan-German Nazi connotations, some are now rehabilitating it as a positive expression of German (or European) values that underscore respect for both liberal democracy and regional diversity. 16

One of those making a case for a German leitkultur was Minister of Interior Thomas de Maizière, who published a controversial front-page article on the topic in Bild am Sonntag, the country’s largest national Sunday newspaper, in April 2017. 17 Defining leikultur as “what directs us, what is important to us … a guideline of living together in Germany,” de Maizière argued that “there is something beyond our language, constitution, and respect for fundamental rights that binds us in our hearts, that makes us different, and that distinguishes us from others.” The Minister then enumerated ten “theses” describing what makes Germans German: certain social habits, a general education, capacity, ability and strength, a heritage of cultural production, a consciousness of being heirs to a dark history, an enlightened patriotism, a special relationship between the church and a Christian state, a violence-eschewing, consensus-oriented commitment to protecting minorities, ties to the Europe, nato, and the West, and a collective memory attentive to both the good and the bad of the past.

Given that the majority of asylum applicants in 2015–16 came from Muslim-majority countries, apprehension about Islam or Middle Eastern mores hovered in the background of some of this debate on national culture. During my field research, I frequently heard questions that hinted at this unease, such as “Will refugees’ foreign habits transform what it means to be German? Will they accept values such as gender equality and respect for homosexuality? Will they impose their norms of dress and social behavior upon others?” Media reports gave voice to similar concerns. 18 De Maizière did likewise when he added another defining characteristic of Germans: “We say our names, we shake hands to greet one another … We are an open society. We show each other our faces. We are not the Burka.”

Everyday Experience of Bureaucracy

Curiously, I rarely heard Syrian asylum seekers talk about such cultural matters. Perhaps this will come later, after they surpass the initial hurdles of displacement and getting new lives off the ground in Europe. During this early stage of their settlement in Germany, however, it was the interface with state bureaucracy that appears primary in most refugees’ lives. In a dramatic inverse of what Lama Mourad describes as Lebanon’s “policy of no policy” toward refugees, 19 refugees in Germany found that nearly every aspect of life butted against official regulations.

In Germany, governmental responsibility for asylum seekers is dispersed vertically across the federal state, 16 regional states, and municipalities, as well as horizontally across various government departments and civil society organizations. 20 This web of institutions, and the dense laws and policies that they enforce, defined asylum seekers’ first years. Many refugees felt that they dedicated the bulk of their time and energy to waiting for appointments and completing paperwork. Indeed, the maze of red tape could be so baffling that a team of young Syrians developed an app, dubbed “Bureaucrazy,” to navigate it. 21 One incident illustrative of the extent and rigidity of the bureaucracy entrapped not a Syrian asylee but a Chinese tourist. Trying to report a stolen wallet to the police, the man mistakenly signed an asylum application. He was then sent to a refugee shelter, where he stayed for twelve days before he managed to extricate himself from the asylum system. Commenting on the case, an official with the German Red Cross lamented that the tourist became “trapped in our bureaucratic jungle” because, in unwittingly launching asylum paperwork, he “set machinery in motion that he couldn’t get out of.” 22

The challenges that newcomers faced in navigating bureaucracy were not unique to Germany. In his reflection on the struggles of a Sierra Leonean migrant in London, for example, Michael Jackson notes that a lifetime of hardship had given the young man fortitude and patience. Yet, while he was accustomed to suffering and loss, he “was totally unprepared for the bureaucratisation of everyday life in Europe.” Among the most trying aspects of life in exile, he found, was the “inscrutable and Kafkaesque world of bureaucratic protocols, indecipherable documents, abstract rules and official forms of validation.” 23

Many Syrian asylum seekers in Germany can identify with this struggle. Their interface with public bureaucracy has come particularly to the fore in three realms of essential and everyday worry during the first years of their residence in Germany: legal status, housing, and work.

Legal Status

The German Basic law guarantees the right to political asylum. Given the huge numbers of refugees and migrants arriving in the country in fall 2015, however, even starting the asylum application process became a lengthy affair. Registration procedures that were previously completed in a few hours transformed into a “logistical nightmare” taking days. 24 In Berlin, hundreds of refugees waited for days outside the State Office for Health and Social Affairs (nicknamed the LaGeSo and subsequently renamed the State Office of Asylum Affairs, or laf), to register their presence and file asylum applications. 25 A young man from Aleppo who came with the 2015 wave recalled:

Every day I would go to the LaGeSo and wait from seven o’clock to four o’clock. They did not assign people numbers, so people would sleep outside overnight to hold their spot in line. It took me forty days even to enter the building. I got a number, and then it took another thirty days for my number to show up on the screen. There was no organization. You have number 80 and I have number 90, but number 100 might get called before us. Every day I had to show up, just to see if my number was called. 26

Upon applying for asylum, applicants received a temporary residency identity card while the bamf evaluated their applications. In 2016, Syrians waited an average of 10–12 months from arrival in Germany to receipt of their asylum decision. 27 Of 295,040 decisions on Syrian asylum applications in 2016, the state granted 56 percent refugee status, which offered a three-year residence permit with rights to apply for family reunification. It granted 41 percent of Syrian applicants subsidiary protection, which entailed a one-year residence permit that was extendable for two years and carried no eligibility for family reunification during a two-year transitional period. 28

The paperwork, appointments, and waiting time entailed in obtaining legal residence was so encompassing that it occupied a sizable amount of most Syrian refugees’ daily lives and mental space. With characteristic satire, Syrians tellingly referred to bamf as al-mahkamah, or “the Court.” This naming suggested how applicants experienced bamf’s letters calling them for their asylum interviews as something akin to summons, while bamf’s judgments had the weight of verdicts determining one’s fate. Syrians I met expressed great anxiety as they waited for these life-changing decisions. This was especially the case for those who had come to Europe without their spouses or children. Stories circulated of Syrians who made it to Germany only to return to Turkey or even Syria when they realized that they would not be able to bring their families to join them. These concerns, not those related to culture or religion, were typically at the forefront for asylum seekers’ preoccupations during their first years in Germany.


Germany’s 2007 Asylum Procedure Act specified that asylum seekers be transferred to the nearest reception center in accord with a quota system distributing them across federal states. Asylum seekers must live in their initial reception center or living facility for their first three months. 29 The 2016 Integration Law added another restriction on refugees’ ability to choose their residence: typically, asylum seekers can only move from the county to which they were assigned if they find a job that meets some of their expenses. 30

In the wake of the 2015 influx, German states and municipalities improvised hundreds of new temporary living facilities, making refugee shelters out of sports halls, municipality buildings, school gymnasiums, and even the hangers of the defunct Tempelhof airport. While different regional states and municipalities had different levels of success in relocating refugees, hundreds of thousands continued to live in temporary shelters as of January 2017. 31 This was in part because refugees competed with locals both for affordable social housing and commercial rentals. Competition was particularly stiff in large cities, which appealed to newcomers due to their dynamic labor markets and existing immigrant milieus, but whose housing markets were already squeezed by large numbers of Germans moving there from provincial areas. 32 Berlin was planning to address this crisis by erecting clusters of shed-like container homes and modular residential buildings around the city. 33 Still, housing supply fell far below demand; refugees whom I met described the arduous search for an apartment as something akin to a full-time job.

When searching for an apartment, refugees navigated language barriers and mastered complex rental rules. 34 As specified by law, they were required to pull together a considerable amount of paperwork to submit a rental application. If they managed to obtain a rental agreement, they then had to submit it to the appropriate social services office for approval. 35 This could represent not the end of the process as much as the beginning of a new one. A man from Latakia completing his first year living in an emergency shelter, an inflated dome that people called “the balloon,” explained:

If a miracle happens and you’re able to find a room in a shared apartment, then you go to the Immigration Office to submit the paperwork. They’ll tell you to come back in two weeks. And then if a second miracle happens and the landlord agrees to wait for you, then you go back to the Immigration Office, and they study your application for another month. And then if God really loves you, you’ll get approved. So the whole process takes one and a half to two months. But the problem is that no apartment is going to wait that long for you. There is a long list of other people who also want that room. 36

In my conversations with Syrian refugees in 2016, housing – which literally and emotionally structures the most intimate dimensions of life – emerged as an overwhelming preoccupation and the paramount obstacle to their acquiring a sense of normalcy. It was also another nexus of refugees’ interface with the state and one that confirmed the centrality of governmental bureaucracy, not cultural matters, in their everyday consternations and general sense of the challenge of living in Germany.


Under the principle “support and challenge,” Germany’s May 2016 Integration Act pledged to give refugees greater and earlier access to integration courses and job and training opportunities, while reducing the benefits of those “who do not meet their duties to cooperate.” 37

As of November 2016, some 406,000 refugees were registered at state agencies as searching for employment. To expedite engagement in “meaningful work,” the 2016 integration legislation pledged to create 100,000 new “one-euro jobs,” for which asylum seekers were paid an 80 cents-per-hour supplement to their welfare benefits in compensation for completing such tasks as laundry, cleaning, or food distribution in refugee shelters. Though refugees risked losing benefits should they refuse to participate, only 4,300 had started one-euro jobs by December 2016. 38

Meanwhile, many asylum seekers lamented the ways in which bureaucracy stood in the way of employment – especially for professional positions commensurate with prior training and qualifications. One Iranian refugee described being caught in an “endless spiral” in which government agencies told her that an employer was needed to obtain formal permission to work, while employers insisted that they could not hire her without formal permission. 39 An aspiring young Syrian told me of similar troubles:

I got an internship at a telecommunications company. I was there three months and I learned so much. They really liked me and they offered me a job. But I can’t work until I get my residency permit, and I’m still waiting for it. A sister company also offered me a job. They said I could do another internship from September until December. They’re willing to pay me, but the law allows you to have only one paid internship, and I already had one. 40

As trying as these bureaucratic constraints were those that demanded paperwork from newcomers’ home countries and pre-flight lives. Syrian refugees found that government agencies sometimes asked for official documents that they no longer possessed or which had become prohibitively difficult to obtain. As likely, these documents might never have existed, in the first place. In the realm of work, some of this gap between the demand and supply of formal documentation points to the larger challenge of foreigners’ incorporation into a labor market structured by Germany’s apprenticeship system, whereby a “thicket of rules and standards” require workers in dozens of crafts to complete a three-year vocational training courses and pass exams in order to work legally. While many praise this system with aiding youth employment, quality services, and middle class incomes, it creates another layer of obstacles for refugees, and especially those who are middle-aged. 41 During my fieldwork, I spoke with Syrian car mechanics, plumbers, hairdressers and others who had worked for decades back home without formal training, often learning their craft from a young age in a family business. Discovering that their experience counted for little in Germany without official certification, they faced the choice of starting over with an apprenticeship alongside much younger novices, working in the “black market,” or abandoning their trade completely.

As frustrating for refugees were the cases of those who had obtained formal education and degrees but fled Syria without authorized evidence to confirm it. Even those who were fortunate to be in possession of birth certificates, university diplomas, or other critical documentation could find their professional ambitions screech to a halt because they lacked records that they never anticipated needing. For example, one Syrian doctor found himself unable to resume work in medicine in Germany because he did not possess paperwork proving that he had no criminal record in Syria and was unable to obtain such documents via the Syrian embassy. The Financial Times described the doctor’s ongoing dilemma as a “Kafkaesque impasse” in an “unequal battle with German bureaucracy.” 42


This exploration of the initial settlement and integration of Syrian refugees in Germany does not deny the reality, as Rawan Arar details, that the Global North’s predominant interest is in containing refugees in the Global South, where the overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees do indeed remain. 43 Indeed, much of Germany’s policies since early 2016 have aimed at precisely that, as demonstrated most clearly in its creation of new asylum categories with curtailed residency rights, its tightening restrictions on family reunification, and its spearheading of the March 2016 European Union-Turkey Agreement committing Turkey to halt illegal migration from its shores in exchange for billions of Euros. 44

Yet there is also no denying the exemplary investment that Merkel’s government has made in offering shelter to more Syrian refugees than any other country outside the Middle East. While German civil society has rallied on behalf of refugees in inspiring acts of solidarity large and small, the state has committed billions of dollars to refugee welfare, hired and trained more than ten thousand new employees and German language teachers, transformed countless public spaces into living accommodations, and devoted incalculable ingenuity to the task of transforming a “refugee crisis” into a success story.

Paradoxically, the same state that has made asylum and integration possible has occasionally left refugees bewildered or even despondent. In my conversations with Syrians resettled in Germany since 2015, the bureaucracy surrounding and shaping their key life challenges – and in particular, the uncertainty and wait for legal status, the complicated move from temporary shelters to independent housing, and the struggle around barriers to work – arose as perhaps their most significant source of anxiety and woe. That these issues came to the fore for displaced Syrians, while cultural questions hardly captured their attention, does not mean that cultural differences do not matter. These issues might come to matter more as years pass, especially as refugee families address the complexities of having children come of age in Europe.

Still, Germans might be surprised to the extent that the cultural concerns that feature prominently in their own anxieties appear far less important to refugees at this stage. This disconnect highlights both the need for greater communication between locals and newcomers and the tremendous opportunity that exists for meaningful mutual understanding. The greatest sources of worry among many Syrian refugees in Germany have little to do with conservative dress, gender norms, or religious traditions, and much to do with a yearning for personal stability and independence. Germans can take heart that, in this, Syrian refugees’ core values might be more compatible with German values than some suspected. The other contributions to this collection provide evidence of still other shared values, as comes to the fore in Zeno’s interviews emphasizing the centrality of dignity in Syrian identity-making, 45 and Rana Khoury’s surveys showing displaced Syrians’ activism on principles of humanitarianism and civic responsibility. 46

Germans can also find reassurance that, in navigating the state bureaucracy, asylum seekers are already making an important step toward understanding and adapting to Germany society. After all, Wolfang Seibel argues, the bureaucracy and public administration have themselves historically been major engines of integration bringing social groups together into the German state. This sets Germany apart from standard models of political integration in democratic contexts, where parties, parliaments, elections, and civil society are dominant in playing that role. 47 Even de Maizière hinted that the culture of bureaucracy might be among the elements defining Germany’s leitkultur. “Who are we? Who do we want to be?” he mused. “As a Society … A few things are clear. They are also indisputable: We respect … basic law above all.” 48

In this exchange on culture and bureaucracy, there is also much that can give reassurance to Syrian refugees. They can take heart in the fact that many Germans also express dismay with the heaviness of their own bureaucracy. In realms from the labor market to academic research, many native-born citizens share asylum seeker’s frustrations in this regard. 49 Furthermore, while newcomers today experience most acutely bureaucracy’s disadvantages, many also appreciate one of its key advantages: its guarantee of equity and fair treatment before the law. As one German satirist writes, bureaucracy is “Germany’s pride and joy” in part because “no one in this country gets to cut through red tape. When it comes to paperwork, the rules apply to everything and to everyone – equally.” 50

Finally, Syrian newcomers might also find camaraderie in the ways that Germans’ discussions about integration and culture indicate penetrating self-reflections and conversations about national identity. Syrians know well that defining what unites a nation as a nation can be a painful and protracted challenge. In this, they can recall de Maizière’s claim that among the pillars of Germany’s leading culture is a collective memory attentive to both the good and the bad of the past. As Syrians build a new collective memory against the backdrop of a brutal war and mass displacement, they will wrestle with how to do likewise.

The author is grateful for a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for it generous support of her field research in Germany and the Forum Transregionale Studien-eume (Europe in the Middle East – the Middle East In Europe) for serving as her institutional host. For their help and insight while in Germany, the author thanks Nora Ateia, André Bank, Jacobia Dahm, Dina El-Sharnouby, Nur Hajjir, Nahed Samour, Luisa Seiler, and the many Syrian newcomers who shared their stories with her. She thanks Agneska Bloch, Coretta Lemaitre, Asha Sawhney, and Sky Swanson for German-language research assistance. All errors are the author’s alone.


Federal Office of Migration and Refugees (bamf), “Key Asylum Statistics 2016,”


Katrin Benohld, “As Germany Takes In Refugees, It Also Rehabilitates Its Image,” New York Times, September 22, 2015,


Anna Fischaber, “Was hinter der Hilfsbereitschaft der Deutschen steckt” Süddeutsche ­Zeitung, September 11, 2015,; Güntner von Joachim “Das gute Fühlen” Neue Zürcher Zeitung, September 24, 2015; Josef Joffe, “Das deutsche Wunder” Zeit Online, September 12, 2015


Janosch Delcker “Victor Orban, Bavaria’s hardline hero” Politico, September 23, 2015,; “Merkel Under Fire as Refugee Crisis Worsens” Spiegel Online, November 2, 2015


See Nils Markwardt, “Willkommen in Panikland,” Zeit Online, January 28, 2016,; Vanessa Steinmetz, “Studie zu Flüchtlingen und Migranten: Die Willkommenskultur verabschiedet sich,” Der Spiegel, July 7, 2016,


Basileus Zeno, “Dignity and Humiliation: Identity Formation Among Syrian Refugees,” Middle East Law and Governance 9, no. 3 (2017), pp. 282–297.


“Germany Attacks: What is going on?” bbc News, December 20, 2016,


“10 attacks a day against refugees,” Al-Jazeera, February 27, 2016,


See Charles Maier, The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust, and German National Identity (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1990); Mary Fulbrook, German National Identity after the Holocaust (Cambridge uk: Polity Press, 1999).


Jörg Bong, “Wir sind viel zu zurückhaltend,” Der Spiegel, May 7, 2017,


Claudia Postelnicescu “Europe’s New Identity: The Refugee Crisis and the Rise of Nationalism” Europe’s Journal of Psychology, May 31, 2016,; Armin Nessahi, “What makes us German?” Qantara, December 9, 2015,


The Federal Chancellor, “Integration Act to support and challenge,” July 8, 2016,


“Integration courses: Learning German and much more,” Make it in Germany Official Website,


“The Rise of Germany’s New Right,“ Spiegel Online, December 11, 2015, http://www.­


Matthew Karnitschnig, “Germany’s Identity Crisis,” Politico, October 20, 2015,; Stephanie Kirchner, “The Arrival of Hundreds of Thousands of Migrants Is Fueling a German Identity Crisis,” The Washington Post, June 1, 2017,


Jörg Bong, “Wir sind viel zu zurückhaltend,” Der Spiegel, May 7, 2017,; Henrik Müller, “Europa braucht eine Leitkultur,” Der Spiegel, May 7, 2017,­europaeische-leitkultur-a-1146470.html.


Thomas de Maizière, “Leitkultur für Deutschland – Was ist das eigentlich?” Bild, April 30, 2017,


See Janek Schmidt and Emma Graham-Harrison, “Germans accept Arabs," The Guardian, January 16, 2016,; “Europe is trying to teach its gender norms to refugees," The Economist, October 16, 2016,


Lama Mourad, “Inaction as policy-making: Understanding Lebanon’s early response to the refugee influx,” Middle East Law and Governance 9, no. 3 (2017), pp. 249–266.


Petra Bendel, “Coordinating Immigrant Integration in Germany: Mainstreaming at the Federal and Local Levels,” Migration Policy Institute Europe (August 2014): 2–3, 5. Barbara Laubenthal, “Political Institutions and Asylum Policies – The Case of Germany,” Psychosociological Issues in Human Resource Management 4, no. 2 (2016): 124–125.


Philip Oltermann, “Syrian refugees design app for navigating German bureaucracy,” The Guardian, August 5, 2016,


“Chinese tourist who lost wallet in Germany ends up in refugee shelter," The Guardian, August 8, 2016,


I thank Nina Gren for alerting me to this source. Michael Jackson, “The Shock of the New: On Migrant Imaginaries and Critical Transitions,” Ethnos 73 (March 2008): 70, 65.


Amy X. Wang, “Germany’s Refugee Crisis is Getting Worse," Atlantic, October 4, 2015,; Michelle Martin, “Germany faces a logistical nightmare," Reuters, October 4, 2015,


Jens Schneider, “Zehn Tage Schlange stehen,” Sueddeutsche Zeitung, October 8, 2015,


Wendy Pearlman, We Crossed A Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria (New York: ­HarperCollins, 2017), p. 247.


“Warten – fast ein Jahr lang,” ard , October 12, 2016,


Laubenthal, “Political Institutions,” 125, 131.


Victoria Rietig, “Moving Beyond Crisis: Germany’s New Approaches to Integrating ­Refugees into the Labour Market,” Migration Policy Institute (October 2016),­integrating-refugees-labor-market, p. 14.


Jennifer Adams, Anna Gyulai Gaal, and Rene Blixer, “The refugee home hunt,” Exberliner, January 25, 2017,


Stefan Wagstyl, “Young Germans and migrants compete for city housing,” Financial Times, May 29, 2016,


Adams, Gaal, and Blixer, “The refugee home hunt.”


“Wohnungen mieten: Für Flüchtlinge ist das nicht immer leicht,”,


“5. You need an apartment,” Integreat-Stadt Regensburg,


Interview by Wendy Pearlman, August 1, 2016, Berlin, Germany.


The Federal Chancellor, “Integration Act to support and challenge,” July 8, 2016,


“‘One-euro job’ program for refugees off to a slow start in ­Germany,” Deutsche Welle, December 2, 2016,


Beke Detlefsen, “So finden Asylbewerber in Deutschland einen Job,” Stern, August 19, 2015,­sollen-asylbewerbern-zu-jobs-verhelfen-6388188.html.


Interview by Wendy Pearlman, August 1, 2016, Berlin, Germany.


Tom Fairless, “Germany’s Apprenticeship System Comes Under Attack,” Wall Street Journal, October 16, 2016,


Guy Chazan, “A Syrian refugee in Germany: the battle with bureaucracy,” Financial Times, October 26, 2016,


Rawan Arar, “The New Grand Compromise: How Syrian Refugees Changed the Stakes in the Global Refugee Assistance Regime,” Middle East Law and Governance 9, no. 3 (2017), pp. 298–312.


Katrin Elger and Asia Haidar, “Left Behind: Tougher German Rules Leave Refugee ­Families in the Lurch,” Spiegel Online, August 31, 2017,­germany/hardened-german-rules-leave-refugee-families-split-a-1165162.html.


Zeno, “Dignity and Humiliation.”


Rana Khoury. “Activism among Syrian Refugees in Jordan,” Middle East Law and ­Governance 9, no. 3 (2017), pp. 267–281.


Wolfgang Seibel, “Beyond Bureaucracy: Public Administration as Political Integrator and Non-Weberian Thought in Germany,” Public Administration Review (September, October 2010): 719, 728.


De Maizière, “Leitkultur für Deutschland.”


See, inter alia, Yannik Buhl, “Mehr Bildung und weniger Bürokratie” ­Stuttgarter Zeitung, May 28, 2017,­des-handwerks-mehr-bildung-und-weniger-buerokratie.f7f8c594-73b5-4adc-91d4-16959469825a.html; Bert Losse, “How German Bureaucracy Crushes Research,” Handelsblatt Global, April, 30, 2017,


Peter Zudeick, “Germans and bureaucracy,” Deutsche Welle, December 14, 2012,

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