Two articles have come my way which may be of interest to people trying to come to grips with the refugee situation in Europe. First:
Overall while there have been some protests and violent attacks, the German people have been welcoming. As leader, Angela Merkel has been very firm:
- “Es gibt keine Toleranz gegenüber denen, die die Würde anderer Menschen infrage stellen.” (There will be no tolerance towards those who question the dignity of others.)
The key word is Würde, or dignity. Klaus Neumann tells us:
- Würde resonates powerfully in Germany. Article 1(1) of the Basic Law of 1949 begins with the words, “Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar” (“Human dignity shall be inviolable”). This and the next eighteen articles of the Basic Law constitute a German bill of rights; for West Germans, in particular, the rights enshrined in the Basic Law have been an important part of what it means to be German.
- The second sentence of the Basic Law’s Article 1(1) is also relevant: “To respect and protect [human dignity] shall be the duty of all state authority.” Merkel – as well as just about every other mainstream political leader in Germany – has been unambiguous: the government will come down hard on anybody who does not respect the human dignity of those seeking Germany’s protection.
So there is to be zero tolerance in dealing with xenophobes.
Nevertheless the sheer numbers of refugees arriving are worrying many Germans about the capacity of the country to absorb the refugees economically, socially and culturally. 800,000 per annum is approximately 1% of the population. Can anyone imagine Australia absorbing 240,000 asylum seekers each year?
It was interesting in Berlin to hear that in the late 17th century a third of the population was of Huguenot origin (our guide was a qualified historian). He said that the authorities very much welcomed the Huguenots, for their skills and the economic contribution they would make.
During seven days in Berlin we saw a lot of people on the underground and in the streets. They appeared to be very ethnically mixed, with a noticeable disproportionate number of very tall men. One wonders about the legacy of the Potsdam Giants, a regiment of very tall soldiers gathered from all over Europe by Frederick William I of Prussia, known as the Soldier King, who never fought a battle.
In Poland the people we saw almost all looked very much like Poles. In Prague and Budapest there were too many tourists around to tell, but I understand most of central Europe, the former Bohemia, is quite ethnically mixed. However, there seems to be little Muslim presence. The guide for the walking tour of Bratislava gave us the religious mix, told us that there were no Muslims and she hoped it would stay that way, which was, to put it mildly, beyond her brief.
Dealing with the refugee crisis presents a considerable challenge to the European Union; some warn that it will blow the Union apart. Here are some articles to go on with:
There are around 4 million people displaced from Syria into neighbouring countries, completely dwarfing the large numbers heading for Europe. The second I want to draw to your attention is:
Some (many?) of those on the move have resources and are less vulnerable than those left behind. Some of them are opportunistic, taking advantage of the opportunity presented. The region is losing the people who will be needed to rebuild.
I’m in awe of the distances some are moving. They must have access to water, food and basic shelter. Some, it seems. are using mobile phones to navigate. I wonder how they get their batteries charged.
Update: I’m adding here the image from the BBC articleon Syrians displaced to other countries: