The Refugee Crisis in Germany: Views from the Inside
The images of Syrians fleeing their war torn country and walking into the open arms of the German people have touched the hearts of many people all over the world. A country’s whose media image as a cold calculating efficient people has been change to something that I have known as not complete. The German people are a calculating and efficient people but they are also a magnanimous and generous people who have learned from their past.
My friend, Ulrich Schmitt, is a lawyer who lives in a small German city of Trier of about 100,000 people near the border of France. It is a city with an initial reception camp where refugees are brought in, registered, processed then transferred to other parts of Germany or sent back to their country. The processing time can takes about five months. Large numbers of refugees are spread throughout small city of Tier.
Mr. Schmitt was happy to see the kind hearts of the people in his city bring clothes, food, and toys to the homes of the refugees. He further elaborated that many people are willing to help by taking part in private welfare programs, trying to find out what the refugees need, providing them with a private place to live, teaching them German, and helping them with official documents.
Dr. Ralf Baumgarten of Chulalongkorn University believes that Germany and the other European Union countries can afford to handle the refugee crisis. He says that Europe should have been quicker to provide shelter to the people who lost their homes in the Syrian Civil War. The burden has fallen on the shoulders of Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordon who have less ability to care for these refugees.
However, the German political system seems to be strained by the large number refugees. In several parts of the country, the police are not able to register every refugee and the asylum proceedings are a huge burden to the Office of Migration and Refugees. If the Office of Migration and Refugees grants asylum, the refugees are provided some money and shelter until they are able to care for themselves.
Dr. Baumgarten states that this is not the first time that Germany has taken in large numbers of refugees in a relatively short period of time. In 1994, there were over 350,000 refugees from the Balkans in Germany during the Bosnian Wars of the 1990s. Most of the refugees were repatriated after the end of the war. He stated that this shows that the burden of having to provide shelter to refugees is limited.
However there is a hidden benefit to Germany. Germany has the second oldest population in the world next to Japan. Its’ rapidly greying population combined with the country’s low birth rate could lead to a demographic population collapse. Germany is in need of an immigration influx to prevent this from occurring.
While the initial cost of caring for the refugees are high, Germany’s financial discipline, balanced budgets, and low unemployment rate makes it uniquely positioned to absorb the population. The Syrian refugees are not economic refugees escaping poverty but a population displaced by war. This is an excellent opportunity for Germany to infuse is population with a skilled and educated labor force.
While the refugee crisis has shown the hearts of the German people, it has also allowed the dark relics of the Nazi period lash out. In some cities (mainly in Eastern Germany) refugees are not warmly welcomed. Instead, refugees are threatened and rocks are thrown at them. The German police are trying to protect the refugees to the best of their ability. However, this does not stop small groups of violent extremist from setting refugee houses on fire on a daily basis.
These are trying times for Germany and the German people. Let’s hope that the future does not bring more hate. But at this time, the vast majority of Germans are willing to help more refugees who come. The German people understand what happens when they allow hatred and anger overtake their country.
By Ulrich Schmitt and Robert Virasin
Urich Schmitt is a Germany lawyer who lives in the Tier, Germany. Robert Virasin is managing director of Virasin & Partners and resides in Bangkok, Thailand. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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