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Please note: The campaign refugeecampus.org / fluechtlingsstipendien.de was sucessfully completed in 2014. This website is not updated but kept for reasons of documentation.

 

Initiators of the public appeal refugeecampus.org plead for a humanitarian orientation of the scholarship programme for refugees from Syria, announced by the Federal Government

More than 200 professors from German universities recently signed our appeal to the Federal Foreign Office and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to set up a scholarship programme for refugees from Syria. The fact that a total of over 4,000 people, above all university members, have now signed this call of the initiative fluechtlingsstipendien.de / www.refugeecampus.org illustrates the broad support such a measure can count on at German universities.

On 22 September 2014, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced the establishment of a scholarship programme to enable 100 Syrian refugees to study in Germany. The Federal Foreign Office stated that by this measure, implemented by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) under the title "Leadership for Syria", up to 100 students can complete their studies in Germany and participate in an accompanying socio-political education programme. In addition, the DAAD announced they would double the number of its regular scholarships for Syrians.

As initiators of the public appeal, we welcome these measures, which could indeed provide sustainable assistance for reconstruction and at least enable some of the young refugees to study in a safe environment.

At the same time, however, the programme lacks a clear humanitarian orientation. Instead, the title "Leadership for Syria" merely emphasizes the goal of developing a future leadership elite. But the public appeal that so many members of the German scientific have signed, focused precisely on humanitarian aspects, as already present in motto "Active protection for refugees and long-term aid for reconstruction" - it was these aspects that received massive support at the universities, as the reactions to the appeal and the consistently positive response in the German media show. In addition, numerous initial signatories spoke out publicly in the press and on the radio to explicitly promote a humanitarian orientation of the programme.

It seems to us of central importance that the selection criteria of such a scholarship programme ensure that the money benefits students who really need it. In this sense, for example, a student who has to live in the precarious and dangerous environment of a refugee camp should be given preference over a student who had to flee but whose family, in principle, has enough resources to continue to finance the studies of their own children even without a scholarship. If this humanitarian orientation is lacking, such a programme threatens to promote those who were already better off before the outbreak of the civil war - and this would reproduce social inequalities and exclusions that were partly responsible for the development of the conflict.

The reason for the appeal was and is the misery and lack of prospects of the refugees in Syria and the neighouring host countries. But the current developments in the region show that civil wars often do not stop at national borders. As initiators of the programme, we would therefore like to emphasise that a meaningful scholarship programme cannot be based rigidly on the country of origin of those affected, but must react flexibly to such developments. Of course, it should not only address Syrian nationals in the strict sense, but also Palestinians or other groups of stateless persons, e.g. Kurds who lived in Syria before the war and who were denied citizenship by the regime. That is why our appeal speaks of refugees from Syria, not Syrian refugees.

 

Dr. Christoph H. Schwarz (Philipps-University Marburg)

Dr. Greta Wagner, Dipl.-Soz. (Goethe University Frankfurt a.M.)

 

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