As of 2018, Why did the governments of Germany and Sweden decide to receive refugees from Syria?

Were there any strategic/tactical political/economic factors involved?

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    Do you have some information to go with that? Both Denmark and Iceland are taking Muslim refugees, so do you have a per capita comparison of them compared to Germany, which is a much larger country? And are you only referring to Nordic countries?
    – rougon
    Commented May 5, 2018 at 15:46
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    and humanitarian reasons.
    – Max
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 18:19

2 Answers 2


Starting in March 2011 there was a major civil war in Syria, many people were displaced by the fighting and tried to escape, to Turkey and to Europe. There were a great number of refugees, many living in miserable conditions.

Many countries across Europe offered to accept refugees, as part of their humanitarian duty. Refugees often go on to make a positive contribution to the country that offers them asylum (I think of European Jews that escaped to America in the second world war, or the Ugandan Indians the settled in the UK having been expelled by Idi Amin), but it is not at all clear that this was the prime motivation. Instead it seems to have been a political response to demand for a unified action on refugees, and a desire to be seen as a leader among the European nations.

For Germany in particular, the people remember with gratitude the refuge offered by many nations that were victims of the Nazis.

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    It's really more "For Germany in particular, people remember with shame the lack of refuge offered by many nations to the victims of Nazi persecution, and resolved to do better". That is the reason that a right to political asylum was put into the German constitution. Commented May 13, 2019 at 13:59

For Germany, article 16a of the constitution in general guarantees asylum to those victim of political persecution. Furthermore, Germany (and Sweden) is a party of the Geneva refugee conventions of 1951 and 1967. Finally, they are both EU members and thus subject to directive 2011/95/EU which handles subsidiary protection for people who do not qualify for asylum according to the constitution or as a refugee according to the Geneva conventions.

All of these regulations and treaties predate the events of summer 2015 by years if not decades. Both countries have been receiving asylum seekers, Geneva convention refugees and those eligible for subsidiary protection (even if that was not a term yet) for decades. Why should they stop?

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    16a 2) does limit the right to asylum pretty heavily, though, so 16a doesn't really provide the basis here: it doesn't apply to anyone coming from a EU member state or a third party state that guarantees human rights. This applies to pretty much every asylum seeker since virtually none traveled from Syria directly to Germany.
    – janh
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 18:27
  • @janh The specifics aren’t the point, the point is that it starts with ‘Politisch verfolgte genießen Asylrecht’ stating the general principle which is then subject to following restrictions. It’s a principle that has existed for decades, only the exact way of handling it has changed especially in the 90’s.
    – Jan
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 3:35
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    You're arguing that this is the reason, while the very article demonstrates that it doesn't apply at all to this situation.
    – janh
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 16:11
  • @janh I’m arguing that there are three legal reasons (ignoring the sicheres Drittland caveat) but most importantly decades of precedence. You’re opening the related question of why these countries ignored the Dublin rules but that is not what OP asked.
    – Jan
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 16:15

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