By Naomi Law
Elm Staff Writer
As a born and raised citizen of Europe, I have watched as the political and humanitarian landscape has changed in front of my eyes following the so called refugee crisis. The migration of asylum seekers from countries of conflict, predominantly Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, has dominated the media presence in England, my home country, for the past two years minimum. It appears that across the multiple televised debates, Parliamentary discussion, and press coverage, the
solution to the crisis rests solely in the answer to one question: at what point do we sacrifice the prosperity of our country to fulfil our role as a humanitarian nation?
Approximately a month ago, a group of German protesters climbed the Brandenburg Gate, a major tourist attraction in the country’s capital, Berlin, that when translated read “Protect the borders, save lives!” The Identitarian Movement, a far-right political group placed under surveillance by Germany’s central intelligence due to claims of “attempts to subvert democracy,” claimed responsibility for the demonstration. The IM has been linked to a number of xenophobic incidents throughout Germany in the past six months, and has strong links with Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West. PEDIGA has been responsible for a number of protests across Germany, many of which have resulted in violence and crime.
PEGIDA and the IM mark the rise of a far-sweeping movement of politically minded protest groups on the rise in Germany, whose aim is to revolt the influx of refugees. The 1.1 million refugees who arrived in Germany in 2015 mark the brunt of Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War II. This is largely due to, or at least blamed upon, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open door policy. In her August 23rd speech, Merkel claimed that her allowance of millions of war-torn individual’s into Germany was due to the nation’s “humanitarian duty to help and support them.”
Merkel’s policies have not only received backlash from far-right protesting groups, but also other political figures. President Joachim Gauk may have very little power, but his words hold extreme moral weight. Recognizing eastern European concerns, he argued that a migrant cap may be “morally and politically necessary.” The President, like many of the german population, believes that if democratic parties do not control the refugee crisis, then ‘populists and xenophobes will ultimately set a limit’.
Until immigration policies can be discussed and finalised, is Germany heading for a revival of nationalism? As a European citizen, I would be highly disappointed to see the historical work of our countries, who worked together in unison to create peace and prosperity, unfold before our eyes.
This is what is beginning to occur. In 2015, I visited Freital, a middle class German town in the suburbs of Dresden. Freital is a quiet town with humble citizens and modest room for class mobility. In March of this year, the German government announced its intentions to relocate 280 refugees to an abandoned hotel in the piedmont of the town. After visiting this docile, quaint town, I was shocked to hear that when the refugee cohort arrived, they were met by jeering mobs and hundreds of German nationals waving anti-immigration flags and shouting “No asylum to pigs!” The rest of the nation pointed the finger at the German government for the atrocities of Frietal, blaming the open-borders for the public outcry. If Frietal revealed anything, it was that the diplomatic problems Merkel faces with her liberal approach are becoming far outweighed by the domestic problems she now faces.
As far-right political groups continue to rise over Germany, protests will grow and national anger will increase. Arguably, in the face of Merkel’s solid desire to enforce her policies, the German government is ignoring other options in managing the refugee crisis, such as convincing other EU countries to take in equal quotas, more control and management and external borders, or convincing Turkey, a major transit country, to prevent refugees from entering the bloc. Arguably, the governments its approach to the refugee crisis is what has caused the outcry. As with all major political revolutions, a people feel let down with their government. However, it is now time for the rest of Europe, and the rest of the world to unite in solving the migrant crisis in the most humanitarian way.