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Können wir das schaffen?? Jo, wir schaffen das!

wwnAnne

By Anne Schwobe

Dear WWN readers,

My name is Anne Schwobe and I am working as the German Language Assistant at Willamette this year. I am happy to share some important news from my home country with you and I hope you enjoy reading it. For the first entry I chose a very current and important topic, the “refugee/migrant crisis.”

When thinking of the German news and current topics that are being discussed in the German media, the one and only thing that pops up in my mind is the so called “refugee crisis” in Europe, or should I say in Germany?! Before giving you a broad update on what is going on in Germany after thousands of people were welcomed each weekend, I want to say that my comment on the BBC article, “Migrant crisis: Merkel upbeat on integration despite tensions,” is just a try to give you an insight about what is going on in Germany, German politics, and how the current situation starts to divide the society to a certain degree. I will not go into detail about everything just because the topic is too big and there would not be enough room and time to do so. The different points of view on immigrants in Germany is therefore rather subjective, based on what I have experienced prior coming to Willamette (which is not a lot since most of the refugees arrived in late August), what my friends and family have expressed to me, as well as news and readings I found online. Hence, it cannot be generalized.

Here’s an attempt to quickly summarize what happened the last few months (Feel free to skip the next few paragraphs if you are familiar with Syria and the European refugee crisis):

In the summer of 2015, Europe experienced the highest influx of refugees since the Second World War. Syria has become the world’s top source of refugees. Syria is located in the Middle East and has been led by the al-Assad family since the 1960’s who have ruled it as quasi-dictators until the Arab Spring happened in 2011, a revolutionary wave of protests and conflicts in the Arab world that toppled many authoritarian regimes. However, the Assad’s refused to step down and this led to a brutal war. Several different ethnicities and religious groups fought each other in changing coalitions. ISIS, a militaristic jihadist group, used the opportunity and entered the chaos with the goal to build a totalitarian Islamic caliphate. Very quickly, it became one of the most violent extremist organizations on Earth. All sides committed horrible war crimes, tortured on a large scale, and repeated deadly attacks on civilians. The Syrian population was trapped between the regime, rebel groups, and the religious extremists. A third of the Syrian people have been displaced within Syria, while over four million have fled the country. The vast majority of them reside now in camps in the neighboring countries that are taking care of most refugees. The Arab states of the Persian Gulf have not accepted a single Syrian refugee.

The UN and the World Food Program were not prepared for a refugee crisis on this scale. As a result, many refugee camps are crowded and undersupplied, subjecting people to cold, hunger, and putting them at a great risk for diseases (If you’re interesting in reading more about a camp in France, take a look at Emmanuelle’s comment on a camp in Calais). Most people lost hope of the situation getting better any time soon and therefore many decided to seek asylum in Europe. Europe itself was a bit overwhelmed as well as underprepared for the storm of asylum seekers.

In the EU, a refugee has to stay in the state they arrived in first, which put enormous pressure on the border states, especially on those who were already struggling. Greece for example, itself in the midst of an economic crisis was not able to take care of so many people at once.

The world needed to come together and act as a united front, but somehow it seems like it has become more divided. Many states downright refused to take in any refugees, leaving the border states alone in their struggle.

The perception of the crisis around the world suddenly changed when photos circulated of a dead boy from Syria, trying to get away from his misery back home and ending up drowning.

Germany announced that it will, without exception, accept all Syrian refugees and is now preparing to take in 800,000 people in 2015, more than the entire EU took in 2014.

Germany imposed temporary border controls a few days later and demanded a EU-wide solution for the “refugee-crisis.” Most people have been very welcoming and tried to support the asylum seekers by providing food and clothes.

Despite the overall acceptance of refugees and all the great help and donations, there are also fears in the “Western world” such as of the Islam, increased crime rates, or of the collapse of the social systems. But I do not want to talk about pro-refugee or anti-refugee, that is a whole different, sensitive topic. I would like to concentrate on the time after the refugees make it to Germany. What happens next? And is there going to be an “end” to the migration waves? How many more people can Germany welcome and, at the same time, secure a certain standard of living? People are fleeing death, destruction, and wars in their hometown. The people come to Europe/Germany to seek shelter because they fear danger in their home countries. Once they get to Germany, they need a place to sleep and live. There are so called “Notunterkünfte” (emergency shelters) where the refugees can spend the first nights. In summer, it seemed easier to have accommodation for everyone, temperatures were warm enough to sleep in tents until they could go to a better place to live. Some people might argue that especially in the big cities, like Munich or Hamburg, it is really hard – “even for Germans” – to find a place to live.

Others will argue that “those refugees” came to Germany in order to benefit from the German welfare system and that they are not willing to integrate themselves into society.

Overall, I think that most Germans do not question a duty to help those fleeing the war or human right abuses, but some might find the huge number of arrivals unsettling or, to a certain degree, overwhelming.

The issue of integration is, among others, the most discussed issue in German politics right now when it comes to the refugee crisis. Is it possible to integrate the high number of people into society and work life? And if so, what is the best way to do so? As time goes by, Angela Merkel experiences more and more criticism and concerns – from other politicians and even in her own party. Politicians demand a limit to the number of people who come to Germany. How do you decide who can stay and who should go back because their country is now considered to be a safe state? By having a limited number of people come to Germany, the refugees might be able to actually maintain or live their lives up to a certain standard, a certain quality of life might be easier to achieve than in the current situation. A smaller number of people could have a greater chance of being integrated into society and work life…

Another interesting attempt to help the refugees to integrate themselves is the most recent idea to make Identity Cards for them. This way they are able to present a form of identification. Thus far it is only an idea and I am curious to see how things develop in the next few weeks and months.

As a conclusion, one can say that there is no end in sight regarding a quick solution for the refugee crisis. In my opinion, I understand why some people wish for having a limited number of asylum seekers. It is not like I would not want to help everyone but I think that the people who have been traveling for months deserve a happier and better life than what they might experience right now. They should be integrated in social life as well as in the work life. They need help to overcome the language barrier in order to be able to integrate themselves and start a new life away from all the cruelty and brutality back home. There are certainly many things that need to be done and changed to improve the circumstances some refugees live in, but one should always remember one’s own identity as well as culture-specific norms and values. Please keep in mind that this comment is just a brief summary of thoughts about what is currently going on in the German news and that Germany is a country that is open-minded and diverse. Even though the refugee crisis is everywhere in the news, it still remains a very sensitive topic.

The arrival of so many asylum seekers will and already has had an impact on Germany’s society, politics, and economy. But Germany cannot deal with this problem alone. It is an on-going discussion and I think the most important thing is that we have to understand that it is a topic that pertains to everyone all over the world.

/!\Please note: the statement made in these articles do not reflect the view of Willamette University or the countries of the respective contributors./!\

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