Commentators have misunderstood Merkel’s refugee policy

There is a saying that there are always two sides to every story. When it comes to politics, there are usually not only two opinions on a matter, but a whole array of them. Politicians such as Trump can divide a whole nation, his ‘alternative facts’ causing both hatred and apparently false hope for a ‘great America’.

 

Another prominent cause for discussion over the last two years has been the refugee crisis, leading to protests or welcome demonstrations, and widening the gap between Europe’s political far right and left.

 

Recently, more and more people have called for a change in particular countries’ policies towards taking in refugees, demanding a more wholesome approach as opposed to an individualistic (selfish?) one. This, however, is not an entirely new idea, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed a just distribution of refugees among EU member states as early as winter 2015.

 

Right now, according to statistics by Eurostat, two thirds of the 988 European applications for asylum are issued in Germany. Second place goes to Italy, while France comes in third. Other financially secure member states, such as the UK, do not even appear in these statistics, as their percentage of accepted refugees is considerably small. Most of the weight of the crisis over the last two years has been on the aforementioned states, as well as Southern European countries such as Greece due to the Dublin regulation.

 

Increasingly, it has become harder and harder for those states to bear the financial and logistical burden of this sole responsibility. Housing, food, education, language lessons, security and many more all have to be organised by the state in question, mostly only to be shouldered by the help of hundreds of volunteers.

 

This has clearly been the case in Germany. They have arguably taken on a job a little too demanding, leading to an unsettling increase in right-wing nationalists (AFD) who, not unlike Brexit-supporters or Trump-voters, feel justified in their opinion that Germany needs to be made great again. They are calling for an expulsion of refugees and currently, it might seem like they have succeeded, with Germany’s Interior Ministry’s decision to transport newly arrived refugees back to their respective country on entrance to the EU.

 

However, one has to keep in mind that Germany has already managed a lot, the numbers speaking for themselves, and this year’s upcoming elections have also played a major part in this decision. Nobody wants a repeat of strong nationalism in Germany within a world dominated by Erdogan, Trump, and Putin. To avoid this threat that would endanger most of the refugees already granted asylum, Merkel’s government has had to make a decision that, on the basis of her previous pro-immigration choices, is probably not very popular with the Chancellor herself. To this day, Germany is challenging AFD’s (Alternative for Germany) views by actively promoting integration.

 

It is always easy for countries like the UK to condemn these kinds of decisions and take the moral high ground, as they have not faced this crisis to the extent that Germany and other countries have done. Trump’s decisions on immigration might have (unintentionally) changed British people’s view on this matter, but this definitely does not give them the right to judge other countries’ decisions without having done anything themselves. There are always two sides to a coin. Maybe it is time for other European states to see the flip-side for themselves.

 

Image: Christos V

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