German Minister of Defence Ursula Von der Leyen visited Ingolstadt on Thursday, as Germany started its pilot training programme for Syrian refugees at a location in the area.
Together with the organisation ‘Helfende Haende’ (Helping Hands) the German army is training 50 Syrian refugees in construction, carpentry and sanitation, for 12 weeks. According to Von der Leyen the programme was not only intended to give refugees a purpose in Germany, but also enables people to return to their home country if the opportunity ever arises. The defence minister said that the majority of refugees wish to go back to Syria and this initiative will “keep the bridge to Syria permanently open [for them].”
The training scheme was initially intended to accept 120 refugees, but not enough suitable candidates were found. In the last year the German army provided significant administrative support during the refugee crisis. Von der Leyen stated that 9,000 soldiers were deployed a day, in order to assist refugees.
Ursula von der Leyen, German Minister of Defence (German): “We are here in Ingolstadt, by the pioneers in the education of Syrian refugees. Last year during the refugee crisis the army first of all provided administrative assistance through the ‘Helfende Haende’ (Helping Hands), giving their all. If we take a look at what has been achieved in that year – 2.2 million deployment hours, which the army contributed, we built 51,000 shelters, we gave out more than one million items of foodstuffs, just to name a few numbers, at peak times 9,000 soldiers a day were assisting refugees under Helfende Haende (Helping Hands).”
Ursula von der Leyen, German Minister of Defence (German): “In principle we know that the majority would like to be able to return to their home country, but in light of the war a vision and perspective are missing. That’s why we have to do everything so they are integrated well here and can earn their livelihood, [and] see a purpose. However I think it is also wise to keep in mind that one day there could be peace again in Syria, and then these people will be desperately needed with these skills. Out of this consideration this initiative was created. Again, I simply asked myself, what can we do to improve the integration of refugees, but also keep the bridge to Syria permanently open.”
Ali Sharqi, Syrian refugee/worker (Arabic): “I will work and stay in Germany, I will never go back to Syria except to visit my parents maybe it will take five years till I see them again. And honestly I miss them so much.”