Europe’s dilemma over refugees

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:


11 thoughts on “Europe’s dilemma over refugees”

  1. The basic territory here is that Europe is essentially full from a population over land point of view. 1900 population 1 billion, 2015 population 7 billion, 2050 population 9 billion. The time in Earth’s history for migrations of humans has passed.

    The places that have land and lower population densities are Ukraine and Russia. Russia has a special responsibility here as it is very specifically engaged in the Syrian situation.

    The real issue is that these people should be staying in their region and Europe, along with the rest of the world, should be funding their support until re-settlement can be achieved. Mass migrations from conflict should not be happening in the world as it is today, particularly where the basis for the conflict is where one person claims ownership of a body of people as is the case with Bashar al-Assad and Syria.

    Climate change will be causing the displacement of tens of millions of people and the world needs to be ready to accommodate that as it occurs, that along with coping with the growth of the general population. Mass migrations from politically contrived conflicts should not be happening.

    That is my view.

  2. BilB I thought you could have said something more about stopping population growth. Without that, we are only deferring every problem we seek to fix.

    Today the Queensland premier has announced we Queenslanders will take 3,000 Syrian refugees. She claims we have the resources to house and keep those people.
    Perhaps we have the resources and perhaps we should take on the 3,000. But:
    * When did anyone in Queensland give our accidental premier any sort of mandate for this? No matter how well-meaning her gesture is, I don’t believe she has the mandated authority for such a move.
    * What conditions might apply to the newcomers? Are there specific rules that compel them to embrace Australia and that they become Australian? Or are we going to set up some little enclave somewhere?
    * What filtering can we expect? Can we have confidence that the arrivals would be welcome here or are they going to foment trouble?
    *Are they going to get a better deal that our own under-privileged folk?

    I am OK about genuine refugees coming here, but I am peeved that a politician can simply exhale a few words and that’s it.

    I might also add that if my wife and I wanted to adopt a refugee child it simply would not happen, such are the barriers to such things. If we were to adopt, we would ask little if any from government, our child would integrate into the community and enjoy the life of an Australian. Don’t you think that would be a better outcome ?

  3. Get real about this Geof,

    We are all responsible for the responsible management of our territories.
    Europe .742 billion people 10 million sq k 1.35 H/p
    Africa 1.1 billion people 30 million sq k 3.0 H/p
    Middle East .54 billion people 8.4 million sq k 1.5 H/p
    Russia .146 billion people 17 million sq k 116 H/p

    There is the layout of the territory and populations. Considering who is stirring this pot which country should be accommodating the displaced persons.

    Do you not see a game plan here?

  4. Syria’s base population is 22 million. 3 million of those have fled the country and a further 6.5 million are displaced within the country. If all of those people leave the country this is bliss to Bashar al-Assad as the land wealth of the remaining people, his supporters, increases. This is effectively a conflict and greed driven mass expulsion of people of a kind that we are seeing too much of. There is much reality based tough talking to do here and Russia needs to be dealt with, I believe. Housing a few thousand people here and a few thousand there is not the solution to this. It maybe what needs to be done in the short term, but it is not a resolution to this sort of land redistribution that is going on.

  5. I’m not going to tell the Europeans what they should do, but I think BilB has a point when he says that the time in Earth’s history for mass migrations of humans has passed.

    I’ve added at the end of the post an image from the BBC article showing Syrians displaced to other countries.

    Also there are more than Syrians, with Kosovo, Afghanistan, Albania and Iraq also figuring largely.

    Merkel is trying to get the main players, including Obama and Putin, together to look at the central issue of Syria/ISIS. However, some say it is like the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which devastated Europe and a third of Germans died.

    Geoff, I don’t think leaders need a specific mandate for meeting contingent situations. 3,500 is one in about 1350 of our population, a tiny fraction of what many European countries are looking at and not likely to cause any problems. I’ve just heard that the Mayor of Western Downs (based on Dalby) has offered to take 1500, which surprises me.

    Yesterday I had my hair cut by a young woman, attractive and in a body-hugging black outfit with long pants and shirt. We were the only ones in the salon and I made bold to ask her where she came from, as she was obviously foreign. Persia/Iran, she said, and it turned out that she had a brother in Germany.

    The research keeps saying that migrants make a net economic contribution in most advanced economies.

  6. Do you not see a game plan here?

    Yeah, pretty much, seeing as Saudi Arabia has not taken a single refugee, likewise Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.
    Russia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea haven’t either, wonder why.
    Can’t find stats on Cuba, Mexico, North Korea , India, Somalia, Argentina, South Africa or China. Little help BilB ?

  7. BilB I am not sure how unreal I was being. I was moaning about Queensland’s unilateral decision to accept refugees. And the difficulties facing anyone with the sensible idea of adopting children out of that theatre.

    Trying to get Putin to take refugee’s, or in fact to be anymore than recalcitrant is rather more unreal.

  8. I was annoyed at the Premier’s announcement that we would take in 3500 people. It was done without consultation with the people who will be adversely affected by this decision – those whose employment is already under increasing threat or who are unemployed already; those whose housing and food supply is precarious.
    I don’t know what sort of pressure she was under to make that decision but she is already wearing the blame for the way the decision was made.

    I was annoyed, too, that we will have no say whatsoever in who it is who comes here.
    Persecuted Christians and Yazidis? Fine. Let’s make them welcome.
    Wartime Opportunists – formerly known as economic migrants and queue-jumpers? Not so fine.
    Soldiers on a military mission and wearing civilian clothes for the time being? Definitely not fine at all.
    Sorry, believing the smug assurances of a government contractor or of a woolly-brained enthusiast that all will be well is not good enough.

  9. Good Infographic on EU migrant surge ( 2012-2015 ) to play with.
    Hovering over a source Country shows where they went.
    Hovering over a destination Country show from whence they came.
    Hover over an ocean to watch the whole box and dice.

    ( 1 dot = 25 immigrants )

    Have fun.

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