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“All Day Waiting” – Causes of conflict in refugee shelters in Germany

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Release date: 2019-03

This Working Paper argues that conflicts in refugee shelters in Germany can  largely be attributed to structural causes. These include the asylum regime,  the interplay between the physical layout and social relationships within refugee shelters, and the specific properties of the refugee accommodation  system, which can be regarded as a “total institution”. Further, there are other  causes of conflict, which can be located at the personal level.

On the basis of a qualitative survey, we worked with more than 200 participants  in 33 refugee shelters operated at state and municipal level across the federal  state (Land) of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). Based on the data collected, the authors Simone Christ, Esther Meininghaus and Tim Röing  analyse five types of conflict: Conflicts at the individual level, group conflicts,  aggressive behaviour and criminality, domestic and sexual violence and conflicts between residents and staff as well as conflict between institutions. The hypothesis that reported cases of conflict represent more than a mere  collection of isolated cases was confirmed. Instead, conflict can usually be ascribed to certain interrelated root causes. Participants themselves were often  unaware of the processes at work here.

We therefore recommend a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention that takes both structural and personal  causes of conflict into account. In this manner, the shelter situation could be  improved significantly for refugees and staff.