Life In Berlin: Katharina Lumpp, An Aid To Refugees

Feb 3, 2017

“Germany provided very strong leadership and took principled and very practical measures and was very coherent in its approach to asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Europe in 2015 and 2016.”

Katharina Lumpp has been assisting and protecting refugees for more than 20 years. Since December 2015, she is the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Germany. Apart from showing leadership, says Lumpp, Germany is also...

Katharina adds, “...One of the largest humanitarian donors with a 1.2 billion Euro budget - and also for UNHCR - the second largest bilateral donor that’s supporting our operations globally to protect and assist refugees.”

In the past year, the number of asylum seekers coming to Germany has dropped by two thirds to 280,000. Lumpp explains, with conflicts continuing worldwide, this is not a reflection of reduced migration.

“What has changed is, that there is now a much more concerted effort to support countries hosting refugees in the world.”

Syrian refugee Marwad Khaled looks at the smartphone snapshot her German language teacher Stefanie Engel took of her after Marwad received a certificate of completion for A1 beginner's level of German language study at a ceremony at the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district city hall in Berlin, Germany.
Credit Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Worldwide, Turkey hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees; about 2.8 million people. Regarding European asylum policy, the UN Refugee Agency suggests some key goals to manage the ongoing challenge.

“Europe returns to joint approaches and refines solidarity and restores the confidence also, in the system to respond to refugees," explains Lumpp. "We have made a number proposals; some of them very practical.”

For example: a common registration system across Europe. On a local level, in Berlin, there’s still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to proper accommodation for asylum seekers.

“Indeed the situation in Berlin with a number of asylum seekers still remaining in these emergency shelters is problematic but it is also exceptional. In Berlin and in other city-states the challenge is simply space to find other forms of accommodation within a short period of time for large numbers of people.”

She emphasizes, there is still a high level of support for refugees, both among Berlin’s citizen and nationwide. Regarding the sometimes heated debates when it comes to Germany’s refugee policy, Lumpp hopes for more trust in the abilities of refugees.

“We are promoting what we call 'participatory approaches,' which focuses on the needs, the skills and the knowledge of refugees, and trying to find ways to empower them, to take care of their own lives again, and to contribute.”