ZEW Economist Paul Berbée on Forced Migration from Ukraine


Civic Engagement Improves the Situation of Refugees

Volunteers play a key role in the successful integration of forced migrants, concludes the ZEW Junior Research Group “IMES”.

More than one million people from Ukraine are currently fleeing towards the west. Countless volunteers in Eastern Europe and Germany are organising emergency shelters and relief supplies to provide them with essential goods. Paul Berbée, a researcher of the Junior Research Group “Integration of Migrants and Attitudes Towards the Welfare State (IMES)” at ZEW Mannheim, explains the role of volunteers in supporting refugees.

“Besides government agencies, many volunteer groups also support people fleeing Ukraine. These people had to leave their homes abruptly and don’t know when they will be able to return. It is crucial to be mindful of how refugees are received after they have experienced such dramatic events, and to make sure that social policy measures actually reach those in need.

In our research on migration in 2015 and the following years, we found that civic engagement plays a key role in the successful integration of forced migrants. For them, it is often difficult to interact with authorities and to access the social systems. Volunteers can assist with such tasks and help refugees upon their arrival in Germany, and also later, for example in acquiring language skills.

If volunteer groups manage to mobilise their forces again, this should have a noticeably positive impact on the situation of Ukrainian refugees in Europe. The role of volunteers must not be underestimated. They are a vital complement to public assistance, which needs to be considered when organising humanitarian aid.”

General documents

ZEW expert brief “Wir schaffen das! Zivilgesellschaftliches Engagement und die soziale Integration von Geflüchteten” (in German)