It has been funny how many people have been telling me that Germany should be careful not to accept too many refugees, that they would be a threat, a burden or what not. It’s particularly funny when these comments come from people who have migrated themselves. And even funnier when it comes from immigrants who live in Germany.
No, actually it’s not funny. It annoying. Highly annoying.
At best, these comments reveal a lack of knowledge about Syria, about war, about refugee law, about Germany, about economics and so on. At worst, they reveal xenophobia and racism.
The following has been a recurring conversation in recent weeks: Someone meets me and, upon learning that I am from Germany, they say “Oh my gosh, you are receiving so many refugees. You must be really worried!” When I reply “No, I am not worried. I think we should welcome anyone who manages to escape a war which has been going on for years, with no end in sight,” I receive flabbergasted looks, as if humanity was a stranger notion than xenophobia.
I go on to point out that Germany is a large country, with plenty of space, no real shortage of money and that we have accommodated millions of refugees before.
The self-appointed Germany experts then usually tell me that I represent an elitist, intellectual minority opinion and that the large majority of Germans don’t want any immigration (often claiming that Germans don’t want to be in the EU either, and so on). All of this is news to me, who should know.
Now, it’s absolutely true that there are millions of racists, xenophobes and neo-Nazis in Germany. But, unlike in some other European countries, in Germany they are not in government. And they are far from being in the majority, although admittedly they are a sizable, scary and dangerous minority.
This poll was conducted in September, while the mass migration was already underway. 37% of Germans said that Germany should continue to take in as many refugees as now (which is already a lot compared with most other European countries) and 22% of Germans said the numbers of refugees to be accepted should be increased. Granted, a third wanted to take in fewer refugees in the future.
So if you only hear from Germans who are scared or who hate to help refugees, maybe the problem is your circle of friends.
The only proper way to welcome refugees could be observed today at Munich train station:
Today alone, Germany welcomed around 7,000 refugees. That’s more in one day than many other European nations will accept in the whole year.
It’s sad to see particularly Eastern European nations refusing to take in a few thousand people in need, when they have the space (millions of their own citizens have emigrated and are still emigrating). Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania and all the others are big on “solidarity” when other EU nations finance their highways and hospitals, but far less so when human lives are at stake.
In 20 years from now, Hungary and Romania, Latvia and Slovakia will have even fewer people. Their population will be much older than now, and with xenophobic governments like some of them have, you can’t blame their intellectual and open-minded people for leaving to Western Europe. The countries who welcome and integrate the largely young, fit and energetic refugees (because the others die on the way, a drastic example of the survival of the fittest) will have the youngest and most productive population. Eastern Europe will kick its own ass for having missed this opportunity. Lastly, if you are not swayed by humanitarian, moral, economic and demographic arguments, without immigrants Germany would never have won the Football World Cup.
“The countries who welcome and integrate the largely young, fit and energetic refugees (because the others die on the way, a drastic example of the survival of the fittest) will have the youngest and most productive population.”
As I understand it, however, the fear of many who oppose any increase in the number of refugees allowed in, are concerned that this will permit many Muslims who are not interested in integrating, but who will rather seek, eventually, to impose their lifestyle on the local population. They cite examples in places such as England, where not a few Muslim leaders are quite open about their intention to impose Sharia law over the whole of Britain and where some neighbourhoods (I suppose you could call them “Muslim ghettoes”), have “enforcers”, who harass passersby whose dress does not conform to Muslim codes and who, for example, eat in public during Ramadan.
Of course one would have to possess a heart of stone not to be moved by the plight of the Syrian refugees, but it’s difficult to know how to strike a balance here.
I don’t find it difficult at all: Millions of people are in desperate need. These are genuine refugees. Maybe one or two or 15 of them have radical views, the overwhelming majority are completely normal people. It’s not true that “many Muslims are not interested in integrating”. I actually find most of them more integrated already than the xenophobes and islamophobes in Europe who haven’t even internalized the concept of freedom of religion.
Good article. Xenophobia can only be countered by knowledge and understanding. Your writing contributes.
Well done Germany. Salutation to your hospitality and humanity.
Just out of curiosity and because I heard some Eastern European politician mention it in German TV: What about refugees from Ukraine in Eastern Europe? Is it true that these countries have taken thousands of refugees from there? If so, I’d understand they wouldn’t take thousands of Syrians on top of that.
But I am not sure how many Ukrainians did actually take refuge in Eastern EU countries…
I haven’t been able to find any numbers yet. As far as I have read, almost all Ukrainian refugees stayed in Ukraine (moving to relatives or to cities like Kiev or Lviv).