We have seen a spike in attacks on refugees in Germany, even the explosion destroys Left politician’s car, which might be connected with far-right scene. Do you think that the continuing wave of migration could somehow fuel the violence from the far right? And if you think there will be an escalation what to do to prevent it, at least partially? Read few comments.
Fabian Virchow, Head of the Research Unit on Right-Wing Extremism, University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf
I guess that the situation will escalate. One reason is that the number or refugees ond migrants coming to Europe and Germany will further increase in the future. Although most politicians and administration officials are very much concerned and really try to build the necessary infrastructure for the refugees there is a number of municipalities that raise taxes in order to finance the additional costs. Media coverage sometimes supports the imagination that the incoming refugees arethe most pressing political problem in Germany at the moment. In addition, organized neo-Nazis try to escalate protests against the housing of refugees. In many places there is at least some support by residents and even acts of violence are tolerated. Actually, it is so far only a lucky coincidence that nobody was killed in the attacks.
The problem of racist threats cannot be solved in the short term. Necessarily there should be a further strengthening of welcoming refugees. This also means that the government has to give more money to the municipalities. Second we have to intensify information work on the reasons why people from Syria or African countries, to take just two examples, risk their lives to come to Europe/Germany. Finally, there has to be a tough stance against organized neo-Nazi interventions.
Alexander Clarkson, Lecturer in German and European & International Studies, King’s College London
At the moment it is very difficult to tell which direction this is going to take. This kind of xenophobic anti-refugee or anti-immigrant sentiment has never disappeared and appeals to a significant minority within the German population, as it does with that of the base of populist parties that score between 10-20% of the vote in other European countries. In the last year, however, the disastrous lack of coordinated resistance against the Pegida movement by local political elites in Saxony in the Autumn of 2014 has created an environment in which these kinds of sentiments were at least for a time given a sheen of respectability. While the backlash by civil society movements and then established politicians and media outlets against Pegida in January and February of this year helped cripple Pegida and various copycat movement established across Germany, the damage has been done. Pegida marches enabled more radical elements to connect with one another both physically and through online networks, which has meant that minor protest against refugee accommodation that once would only have garnered local attention now quickly gets broadcast across the country attracting right wing activists from other cities or regions to whichever flashpoint can be found. The AfD’s association with Pegida has also helped the national conservatives within that party to recruit new more right wing members that ultimately forced its remaining economic liberals out in a party conference two weeks ago. As a consequence, once obscure local figures on the radical right have noted that they can gain national notoriety with escalatory rhetoric, which also tacitly encourages most extreme individuals and small groups to use violent means such as arson and attacks on individual migrants to try to force ‘non-Germans’ out, including in many cases anyone associated with the Left of even mainstream political movements supportive of immigrants and refugees.
That is why the most recent bomb attack on the local Die Linke politicians is quite worrying. The radical right is increasingly presenting basic measures taken by local and regional state institutions as well as civil society to manage a growing refugee wave equitably as merely a symptom of what they see as everything that is wrong in Germany as a whole. In this context, representatives of established political parties, which accept or at least are willing to discuss immigration reform and the acceptance of refugees are presented by the radical right as ‘un-German’ in accepting greater diversity. The fact that a significant majority of Germans at the very least disapprove of the use of violence against refugees and state institutions protecting them is ignored by radical right populists. This also has its origins in the Pegida protests, which were as much directed against elites as they were against migrants. Such a politically toxic combination has the potential to lead to more attacks against both migrants and refugees, who are part of large diaspora networks that will retaliate, as well as state institutions and political parties.
Finally, though this is not a popular opinion, I have some sympathy with the German police and intelligence services here. Unlike the more clearly hierarchical groups during the nastiest phase of the early 1990s, these radical right wing networks are organized in a networked fashion through social media without any clear central leadership. As a consequence, many of these attacks are the result of local disgruntled individuals or groupuscules who are difficult to track. This makes it difficult for the security services to penetrate and anticipate where the next attack or destabilizing local protest may take place.
In general, the strength of German civil society, the number of politicians unwilling to tolerate this despite the populism of parts of the CSU make me confident that these flashpoints won’t lead to a broader shift in German social and political attitudes to immigrants and refugees. Of course many people will remain fearful of migration, but will confine their concerns through established peaceful political activity that will be channelled by the CSU and the CDU. But small emboldened minorities can still do a lot of damage to community relations and cause security services a lot of trouble, and I do worry that we may see scenes that we thought had been left behind by the mid-1990s.
Cas Mudde, Assistant Professor, Department of International Affairs, University of Georgia
The recent spike in immigration will not necessarily affect Northern European countries that much, as they have been familiar with mass waves of refugees since the early 1990s. I would rather expect anti-immigrant responses, mostly but not exclusively non-violent, in some of the Central and East European countries who have not yet seen large numbers of refugees (including Hungary and Slovakia).
There is no way to prevent xenophobic responses and non-violent demonstrations should be allowed, while violence should obviously be prevented or prosecuted. It is important for politicians to address the issue openly and competently. The standard response of politicians is to engage in alarmist rhetoric, giving the impression they are unable to control the immigration (using terms like “invasion” and “swamped”). This is not just factually incorrect, as most governments could deal with the refugees if they wanted to (perhaps with the current exception of Greece) but also counterproductive. Politicians hope the people will sympathize with them, seeing politicians as part of the people, but instead the people will think that the mainstream politicians are unable to deal with the “crisis” and will look for alternative politicians who do claim to have the solution (i.e. Far right politicians).
Matthias Mayer, Project Manager, Program Integration and Education, Bertelsmann Stiftung
Yes, indeed, the situation is in the process of getting more heated. In 2014, there were around 200.000 asylum applications in Germany; in 2015, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees estimates that there will be around 450.000 asylum applications in Germany. These are very high numbers indeed, approximating even the high figures of the early 1990s.
Are there any reasons to be concerned? Of course, it is important to watch the situation carefully and to take appropriate measures to make the asylum process more effective. However, voices arguing that the German system of accommodating refugees is collapsing are clearly wrong. For instance, the Association of German Cities recently stated that Germany can accommodate further refugees.
There have to be appropriate measures to be taken to cope with the situation, many of them aiming at bringing asylum seekers into employment (as they are now allowed to work after three months), such as:
– to speed up the process of deciding about asylum claims and improve the quality of the decisions so that they are challenged less often in court. For this, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees needs further staff and better training for their staff.
– German language training should be open to asylum seekers during their waiting period, which is currently only possible in five Federal states.
– it is important to establish the level of education, training and work experience of the refugees and to pass this information on to the Federal Labour Agency so that asylum seekers can be matched with potential employers
– moving refugees from accommodation centres to normal homes after three months maximum helps arrange employment/training via personal contacts
– it is important to provide further financial resources from federal funds to German cities to cope with the situation