Harald Welzer

Harald Welzer

What does the term refugee mean to you?

Every man or woman can become a refugee. The circumstances of their life simply have to change, due to a new regime, environmental events, war, civil strife, starvation, etc.  To be a refugee does not mean a category, it is a possible situation which can happen to people if they are unlucky.

Is flight from poverty less legitimate than flight from war or political oppression?


And what about flight as a result of environmental problems?

In the future, we will be less and less able to distinguish whether someone is a refugee for reasons of violence, war, persecution or ecological problems; I wrote a book on this ten years ago (Climate Wars). Human life form is never mono-causal.

When does one cease to be a refugee?

When one feels at home.

Is there a natural right to asylum?


If yes: is this right unconditional, or can it be forfeited?

One can forfeit the right to asylum when one fights against the statehood which not only grants the right to asylum but also enforces it.

Do you think that the number of refugees a society can absorb is limited?

No, of course not. Nevertheless, when we speak about the refugee situation in Europe, we are speaking of more than 500 million people who refuse to accept two, three or four million. This is a disgrace. Europe fails the first test.

If yes: where do you draw the line, and why?

Available material resources.

Are there privileged refugees in your country, i.e. refugees that are more welcome than others? If yes: why?

Yes, there are privileged refugees. People who transfer their earnings out of the country - tax fugitives. This also includes large renowned corporations.

Do refugees in your country receive fair treatment?


Would cuts in the social security system in your country be acceptable to you if they were to facilitate the absorption of more refugees?

Wrong question. A country as rich as the Federal Republic of Germany has other options to cover the costs for the admission of refugees than cuts in the social system.

What are the requirements for successful integration?

- on the part of the refugees?

A declared belief in constitutional law as well as acquisition of the language.

- on the part of the citizens of the host country?

A declared belief in constitutional law.

Do you know any refugees personally?

Plenty of them. In Germany almost everybody knows refugees from within their own family.

Do you actively support any refugees?

Yes, with donations and public communication.

How will the refugee situation in your country develop

a) over the next two years?

I would wish for us to find our way back to broad acceptance and cancel the immoral deal with Turkey. But further close-offs are more likely to happen.

b) over the next two decades?

In the course of the next decades, the numbers of refugees worldwide will increase dramatically. There is no reason whatsoever why they would decline. Efforts to close off countries will intensify.

Can you imagine a world without refugees?

Of course.

If yes: what does it take?

Additional steps in the process of civilization and especially an intergovernmental monopoly on the use of force. Yet currently it cannot be determined whether this will come about.

Have you or your family ever been refugee?


Do you think you will ever be a one?

Societies can change rapidly and turn into societies of exclusion, persecuting of those which are define as not belonging. Recommended read: „The World of Yesterday“ by Stefan Zweig.

How much “home” do you need?*

A lot.

*This question was taken from Max Frisch’s questionnaire concerning “heimat”.