We’ve made it!” – How Germany absorbed a million refugees
By Harald Dähne in Berlin
In summer 2015 the European refugee-crisis began – with many unforeseen consequences.
East European states like Hungary and Poland voted for nationalist and authoritarian governments. Back in the 1990’s they wanted the EU and the NATO as a shield against Russia, but now they are unhappy with EU-treaties and EU court decisions.
At the same time, their administrations cut civil rights, followed abstruse conspiracy theories, and introduced intolerant cultural changes.
Luckily things in Germany have been different.
Right-wing demagogues gain some support
The right-wing demagogic and nationalist “Alternative für Deutschland” (AfD) is on the way to the Bundestag; the polls are saying with 8 to 10 percent of the vote.
Since 1949 it’s the first time such a party has looked like getting seats in our national parliament. Meanwhile the established parties are avoiding slogans against immigration.
Nearly one million refugees came to Germany in 2015/16, but last year was much quieter.
The “Balkan-route” from Turkey to Hungary was “closed” and so German authorities could concentrate on caring for the refugees.
Most refugees housed and cared for
Most of the refugees aren’t living in temporary camps any longer. They’ve received housing and social benefits, and the employment office is trying to find jobs and further education for them.
And in the last two years, thousands of private volunteers have taken care of the immigrants and provided coaching.
The Federal Government has paid about 20 billion Euros to finance their accommodation during this time. The German states and local authorities paid a further 20 billion. Some experts have claimed that, all in all, the costs over the next 10 or 20 years will represent between 400 and 800 billion Euros. But I don’t think these projections can be taken seriously.
So far, so good, but…
Up to the present, the high number of refugees has been managed successfully. But there will be serious problems in the next few years:
- The economic situation in Eastern Germany isn’t good. Except the big cities, the East will be the German poor house for decades.
- There is a lot of anger and hate against Chancellor Angela Merkel and her immigration policy, the established parties and the state – related to states in East Europe.
- It’s important for the immigrants to get good jobs, but most of them haven’t enough qualifications for this. And there are still more millions of low-qualified Germans.
- The investments in education have been inadequate in the last few years. Many school buildings, aged 30 or 40 years, are in disrepair. To repair them all, more than 30 billion Euros will be needed.
- In many German cities like in Berlin, the rent for flats in the last few years has increased to a very high level. The state didn’t invest enough in low cost housing. So immigrants compete with lower middle class locals for flats.
- Wages haven’t increased enough in the past 10 years and the difference between rich and poor has been growing. Many people are worried about their own financial situation – even in the middle class.
People feeling insecure
People felt insecure on the streets and at home.
According to the recent statistics released by Toland Law, LLC, the crime rate is increasing for violence and drug crime. To save money, the number of policemen had been cut in the last 15 years, as with judges in the criminal courts and probation officers.
Gang delinquency among immigrants from East Europe and Turkey has been growing.
And now some of the new immigrants present more problems: from pub brawlers to drug dealers or housebreakers, or terrorists, as in Berlin last Christmas.
All these topics aren’t only an immigration problem. But, like a magnifying glass, the refugees are focusing attention on the deficits in our country.
And it’s no comfort that other countries have many more financial and economic problems.
Yes, we’ve made it with refugees!
But in my opinion Germany’s power is built on sand: on a large trade surplus, and aging infrastructure.
The next government won’t change this.