Why Berlin? A look at the Germany Migration Crisis

A look at why the Germany migration crisis was chosen for TCS Education System’s ground-breaking Immigration in Contexts course, a Fall 2016 offering that allows students from five different institutions to study the global issue from all angles.

When leaders at TCS Education System’s Global Engagement team sat down to develop an intensive three-month course that would offer a first-of-its-kind examination of immigration across diverse disciplines, they found it necessary to put this global issue in context. The 10-day study abroad component could have been held anywhere in the world, even within our own U.S. borders.

So why was Berlin, Germany chosen as the study abroad site for this ground-breaking offering?

Dr. Thorsten Bagschik, director of TCS Education System’s International Liaison Office in Germany, shares this perspective from the ground:

Why explore the German migration crisis in Berlin?

“Berlin as the federal capital of Germany and Germany’s biggest city really epitomizes what is going on in immigration in the country,” explains Dr. Bagschik, pointing to a BBC report indicating that of the more than 1 million refugees that crossed into Europe in 2015, the majority found their way to Germany. “The 2015-16 migration crises and the German political reaction to it bring about a fundamental change for our society, with many chances as well as risks attached.”

Berlin houses the German Parliament, the Reichstag, and also the Federal Council of Germany, the Bundesrat—the main governing bodies for federal action. As a city-state, Berlin has been grappling with the migration crisis on a state level as well.

Never mind that the city of Berlin itself, which is made up of 12 boroughs, has faced various migration challenges since the end of World War II.

How did this migration crisis happen?

“After World War II, many so-called guest workers from Southern Europe and Turkey came to West Berlin, while many workers from Vietnam came on contracts to East Berlin,” he explains. “Since the 1980s, many people of German decent from Belarus came to the city, and after the reunification, many Jewish immigrants, especially from Russia and from the Ukraine, came to Berlin.”

What this means is that today, about 1 million of the 3.5 million inhabitants of Berlin have a migration background and between 100,000 and 250,000 non-registered immigrants are living in Berlin. Then came the crisis of 2015, when a historic influx of migrants and refugees arrived in Germany, many fleeing the civil war in Syria.

“For several weeks in the fall of 2015, the situation had been partially chaotic and in a state of emergency,” says Dr. Bagschik.

What will TCS Education System students and faculty experience on the 10-day study abroad portion of the course?

Students from across the TCS Education System joining the program and coming to Berlin will have a chance to see how the city and its many NGOs and volunteers are handling the situation and will discover migration in Berlin from the different professional angles involved.

For example, faculty coming from The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law will offer an examination of legal issues of international asylum while The Chicago School of Professional Psychology professors explore the complex mental health issues this vulnerable refugee and migrant population now faces.

At the same time, Dallas Nursing Institute faculty will shift the focus on urgent health care needs, Pacific Oaks College teachers will look at educational and acculturation issues, and Saybrook University faculty will offer an even more divergent, humanistic contribution to the discussion. Together, the course presents immigration from a 360⁰ view—a rare offering in higher education.

“The study abroad course concentrating on migration and utilizing cross-disciplinary perspectives is a real thrill, given the actuality, magnitude, and importance of the subject,” says Dr. Bagschik. “This is a critical opportunity in these critical times.”