Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
"the current flow" so far has led to a refugee population of 0.027% of the EU population. A crisis! Catastrophe! There are now 793,000 refugees living in Germany. In 1997 there were more than a million and the world did not end.

The right wing wants a narrative of limited capacities. There are more than enough empty flats  in municipality-owned houses alone for the 800,000 refugees our Interior Minister expects for this year. It is just more profitable to sell them or pull down the houses. A question of the political will to put the needs of humans first, and of the political will not to cater for the racist right wing. Something the left ought to say something on. And there is currently a wave of solidarity of people who are fed up with the racism and inhumanity, who take food and other necessities to the railway stations with refugees or to Calais or to the Greek islands. Surely we ought to connect to that, and not to the crisis narrative of the right wing.

by Katrin on Tue Sep 1st, 2015 at 04:51:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I said, it's the "flow" and not the population that's already there. It's all about political appearances. If Germany keeps taking in 800,000/year then that's 1% of the total population every year. The total net figure of those who stay will exceed 1 million easily this year. And if the rate stays that way for the medium term then that will become quite a different issue from the Yugoslavian wars of the 90s. The Lebanese civil war took 15 years - Syria's war will last just as long with the added 'benefit' of IS.

Filling those calcifying empty villages [in the East] seems a good idea to me in principle. But how well is that working in practice? There are always people who do the right thing but they can't always do it full time. In the end it's a political issue of governments. Solidarity didn't win out in the Euro crisis and I am not optimistic it will win out in this instance. See the haggling within Germany in that Zeit article and see the haggling between the EU countries. In the end, people are selfish and evil.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Tue Sep 1st, 2015 at 05:24:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To maintain over 1 million for five years, basically all refugees would have to come to Europe. For 15 years, you would need further mass displacements, not the solidifying of the current ones.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 1st, 2015 at 05:41:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't clear enough. The net influx this year will add to the 793,000 Katrin mentioned so that at the end of the year we will have a million+  who will be officially recognized as refugees in some form. I didn't want to say a million people will come every year.

The number of people coming next year and after that will probably not be as high as this year. If however, the numbers don't let up or even if they stay at about half the current rate then we'll run into political problems quickly.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Tue Sep 1st, 2015 at 08:27:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But how many of the 793,000 will be here next year, and as refugees in need of help? Some will have moved on, some will have been refused, others will obtain a different status by getting a job or marriage or whatever. You cannot simply add the numbers of each year's inflow.
by Katrin on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 05:02:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the point being made is that to sustain these flows for significant spans of years would require the source nations to be emptied. Not just the educated elites, but the entire populations would have to up stakes.
by Thomas on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 10:50:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Solidarity didn't win out in the Euro crisis and I am not optimistic it will win out in this instance.

That's not quite true. The framing in the Euro crisis was (and is) that Greece needed money and the taxpayers of the Eurozone gave that money in order to help. Most people are in favour of helping Greece in solidarity and don't quite understand why the Greeks are being ungrateful. We, the left, did not manage to successfully counter this narrative, so far that is. We are working against an economic dogma that has been dominant for a generation, though.

In the issue of granting refuge to people fleeing the wars of the Middle East and Africa there is no such dogma. It is a matter that people can understand without a course in economics as it hasn't been taught for 35 years. You watch the news of the atrocities and then you hear of people who give up their homes and all their possessions and try to escape. That's not that hard to understand and to have empathy with. No, people aren't selfish and evil. People often are scared, and then they become selfish and evil. It is a matter of political activism, if they need to be scared, though, and what or whom they fear. If we remain passive, your scenario might happen.

by Katrin on Tue Sep 1st, 2015 at 06:04:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed it is easier to understand that you have to help people who fear for life and limb. That's why there is a clear majority for that. The corollary in the public's opinion is that those refugees need to be prioritized, especially when total numbers are high. Which is one reason why only 14% of people think it's ok that poor people from Balkan countries are seeking asylum.

It's critical to get people into jobs or education quickly. Germany can currently accomodate that need because there are openings due to the economic 'boom' (if you can call it that). If and when that boom sputters out in our age of secular stagnation then what? I hope it happens at the tail end of the refugee crisis. Things could get really nasty. Not just here but in the whole EU. That could really test the meaning of solidarity. If the current numbers are a one-off I'm happy to be proved wrong. But thinking long-term, this won't be the last refugee crisis. There is a host of problems such as climate change, demographics, good old fashioned war, the Middle East burning as violently as ever. Come to think of it, the refugee crisis will never end because those crises themselves will never end. This is where it gets dystopian. Have you ever seen the film "Children of Men" where compassion has been snuffed out by constant stress and turmoil?

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Tue Sep 1st, 2015 at 09:05:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Trying to stop this exodus is like trying to fix a leaky roof in the rain, the more cops they deploy the more obvious it becomes that
a. Walls don't work,
 b. There aren't enough border guards and never will be,
c. If we hadn't meddled in their patch there wouldn't be so many of them, and the toothpaste will not go back in the tube.

It makes all the bickering in the EU look like Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

White privilege is running out all over, better late than never!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Sep 1st, 2015 at 09:45:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If and when that boom sputters out in our age of secular stagnation then what?
You can always monetarily finance feeding, housing and employing refugees. Unless you're an Ordoliberal.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 04:32:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Things could get really nasty indeed, but this does not depend on any refugees as catalyst. There are more groups eligible for othering. In order to dismantle the welfare state the disabled, the sick and the old are the obvious choice for some demonisation.

My point is that the current inflow of refugees and the solidarity and empathy most people feel with them is a very good opportunity to advance a leftist agenda. There are enough flats to house them, if we no longer place capital's interest before humans' interest. We can employ an army of teachers to integrate the refugees quickly, and this will benefit the refugees and the (native) teachers, and all of us because state spending generates income that is spent... Try to explain that in connection with the working of the Euro!

No, I haven't watched that film, but I get the point. That makes it even more urgent to counter the right wing's campaign of producing fear. Fear about the millions of strangers coming every year and accumulating over the next 15 years... Nonsense. Today's refugees will have moved on or settled in by then. See the Yugoslav refugees. I don't see anything to support the theory that humans are by nature evil and selfish. They must be made that, compassion must be snuffed out by a policy of creating tension and aggression. This policy can, and must, be countered.

by Katrin on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 04:56:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is a method to snuff out compassion:

Hungarian TV `told not to broadcast images of refugee children' | World news | The Guardian

Employees of Hungarian state television have been instructed not to include children in footage of news pieces about migrants and refugees, a leaked screenshot of editorial advice to journalists at news channel M1 reveals.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 08:15:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Integration teachers as economic stimulus? I'm afraid that would fall short as a left-wing agenda item: Integrationslehrer - Nur raus aus dem Traumberuf - SpOn. The article describes a full-time teacher who -as a top earner- takes home €1,200 a month. Some of them have to supplement their income with HartzIV. That's not gonna lead the Eurozone recovery.

Housing is a another sore point. I'd think immigration is one of the most important ways to alleviate our demographic problem. The caveat is that all those empty graying villages are empty for a reason - the jobs are somewhere else and people move accordingly to the metropolitan areas. Which is where we have been having a affordability/supply/gentrification problem.

...but soon we need a massive building program for affordable housing. Otherwise we will have tent cities during this winter and later on massive competition between people who already need social housing today. That would be poison for our social cohesion and the ideal growth medium for right-wing extremists and xenophobia.
This op-ed penned by a green and a CDU politician shows a way by which this challenge could be met but also how this could follow the anti-immigrant template already demonstrated by other countries. The Swiss complain about the Germans and how they take away jobs and housing. The Brits complain about the Bulgarians and the Poles. Their housing problems are largely self-inflicted but that doesn't stop people from blaming the new competition. And so came the drive to limit migration to a minimum in the UK and Switzerland. Also that problem doesn't suddenly go away if the status of a refugee changes. A different label doesn't grow an apartment.

Jobs? "low-skill, high-labour turnover occupations that are necessarily migrants' first port of call". Highly-qualified immigrants have a problem getting into appropriate jobs under normal circumstances (the proverbial foreign academic driving taxi). Wasn't Germany supposed to soak up all those young hopeful Spaniards and Greeks? That barrier won't change overnight just because of the Syrians. Then comes the language barrier. And not all will be highly-educated. Very highly educated people are arriving too. "But the officials on site tell me they expect a share of 15 to 20 percent of adult illiterates" (interior minister de Maiziere) He also said:

... de Maizière warned that integrating the new arrivals could be difficult. Currently there are about four million Muslims in Germany, especially with a Turkish background he said. "Now we will get hundreds of thousands of Muslims with an Arabic background. Which is, according to my French colleague, a significant difference in terms of integration."
There we have the complex of culture, religion, race, and xenophobia that nobody wants to talk about (me neither!). I hope for the best but some bidirectional culture shock is inevitable. And watch how the mood will flare up if one single refugee commits a crime. See the case of the Eritreian asylum seeker who murdered two people in a Swedish IKEA (the right-wing 'Swedish democrats' are nearing 20% approval).

Which leads me to another conclusion. There is a practical theory that says welfare states are reliant on the trust generated by a mostly homogenous population. That is actually born out by observation. Mistrust, segregation, and transactional costs rise in such cases as the US, Nigeria, etc. Why do you think the US doesn't have a comprehensive welfare state? Because they don't want 'those people' to have it. Why is every major city in the US neatly segregated by race? In Europe too. So to add another insult towards humanity: people are not only selfish and evil (sometimes), they are xenophobic and racist too.

A long ramble to support my original point: Schengen is toast.

PS: Leading nation alone - Sueddeutsche

Germany has adopted a sharp rhetorical stance during the Greek crisis. Now Berlin shouldn't be surprised that solidarity is lacking in the refugee question. ... For the first time ever, a significant number of member states say that a problem is irrelevant to them. This tone has a new quality and will not lead to a fast resolution. ... 90% of refugees are taken in by just nine of the 28 member states. The way the appeals towards a fair sharing of the burden are brushed aside threatens the foundation of the EU. The danger for European cohesion becomes obvious.
Monkey see, monkey do.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 04:09:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not gonna lead the Eurozone recovery.

That's gonna be a topic on which to explain Europe's recovery. The beauty is in expanding the budget to cover the cost for the integration of refugees (and I did not demand to pay these teachers worse than other teachers). Contrary to other items there is nothing in the German budget that will be cut to compensate for these costs. Didactically useful.

As to housing, apparently I wasn't clear enough: there are empty flats not only in regions without jobs. There are empty flats everywhere, although it is illegal. Affordable flats are missing, because there is almost no social housing in the hand of the public and because there is nothing done to enforce the law. (I checked the figures for Hamburg: not a single fine in 2014 or 2015). This is an important item on any leftist agenda, and of course there are already initiatives working on it.  Now, suddenly, everybody is talking about the need for affordable housing. Instead of pitching groups against each other I recommend that we advocate social housing, more social housing, and additionally that the laws against speculation are at last enforced. Actually I recommend that the left demands what we have always demanded, the only thing that has changed is that now we might be heard, because the arrival of so many refugees makes it so urgent.


Which leads me to another conclusion. There is a practical theory that says welfare states are reliant on the trust generated by a mostly homogenous population.

And there is another theory that says that social cohesion--"trust"--is generated by collective efforts and achievements, but that theory is pretty unpopular with  the ruling class. Much better to spread the one of the homogenous population, which, by the way, is purely in the eye of the beholder. Class differences don't exist in that theory. How convenient. In Germany such theories are advanced by people with so very German names as Sarrazin or Buschkowsky, and still their fans believe that immigration destroys the homogenity of the population.


Why do you think the US doesn't have a comprehensive welfare state?

Because McCarthy destroyed their entire left.

Why is every major city in the US neatly segregated by race? In Europe too.

More than 50 nationalities in my daughter's school, so no. I can't say much about the US, but in Europe cities are mostly segregated by class, not "race". The lower end of the working class happens to be more immigrant and dark skinned than other segments of the population. That makes anti-immigrant and racist positions even more attractive for the ruling class: they neatly divide working class activism this way.

by Katrin on Thu Sep 3rd, 2015 at 05:51:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, the people/governments didn't understand the logic of expansionary fiscal policies last time around and they're not gonna get it now. The prevailing austerity logic will instead lead to resentments because of the cost generated by the refugees. This mechanism is currently suspended because people know it's an extraordinary charitable outlay. But will it last if people keep coming in masses? You could rightly argue it's not that much money. But if it isn't then what's the stimulus? Some (hopefully properly paid) teachers? I have more hope for a building spree of subsidized housing. But that is a slow process that's already a decade behind. More potential for resentment. Also, as the Zeit article said, wage depression due to the newly arrived is probable in the very sector, i.e. low level service jobs (our 'saviour' from being the 'sickest man in Europe'), that is the problem spot in the labour market. Another vector for huge resentment.

Empty flats illegal? Whatever. Supply and demand rules supreme, even more so in a bifurcated market where the affordable housing part is under pressure. Build as if your life depended on it (if you can control the NIMBYism - watch that space). A neo-squatter movement that marks down a few hundred properties per city won't matter.

Re: theories of trust and social cohesion. Your theory that trust can and needs to be built is essentially correct. Some examples:

  • The areas with the least amount of immigrants have the highest xenophobia (Sachsen represent!). You fear what you don't know etc.
  • I read a story about a Berlin school that had a hard time integrating middle class children with migrants' children. The parents didn't want to send their children to 'these schools'. The turnaround came when the school promised their children would go to class with exactly those migrant children they already knew from kindergarten. Shared experiences, upbringing, etc.
  • Immigrants who directly start working, i.e. who have a job lined up before migrating, have vastly better chances of making it. Trust is built with the people they work with.
This is where I get nervous. Where are the opportunities going to come from? Young children are better off. They can go to school and learn the language within a month, get educated and eventually get into a passable career. The adults have it much harder. They have to learn a new language and try to get into a menial job, possibly competing with other unemployeds. The problem of absorption gets more difficult the higher the flow rate is. If you don't find connections you stay connected just with your own kind and then we'll have ghettoization and the xenophobic culture wars again. For the most of Europe the problem is already there. Says a French newspaper: "Germany may have opportunities in the service sector for the refugees but Italy, Spain and France can't even offer those jobs to their own young people." So in the absence of opportunities for building social cohesion my theory still holds.

In the American case you can't simply dump it all on McCarthy who 'single-handedly destroyed the left'. Racial segregation and social stratification have a longer history than that. Look at Donald Trump who is now having success promoting social benefits but 'only for the right people'. Those people vote and they can't stand the idea of 'welfare queens' with a different skin colour.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Fri Sep 4th, 2015 at 03:25:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, the people/governments didn't understand the logic of expansionary fiscal policies last time around and they're not gonna get it now.

I am sure that the governments have already understood it. Or at least they will get it very quickly if the people apply some gentle pressure to toes, or less gentle pressure by pitchfork... But the people must get it.


You could rightly argue it's not that much money. But if it isn't then what's the stimulus?

Indeed, it is not that much money that reasonable people need to get nervous. And the stimulus is in showing how it works, and demanding that the principle is applied to other groups of the population too. We are unable to enforce that without a humanitarian crisis, because the dogma says that this way hyperinflation comes. Now there is no alternative, the refugees need refuge, period. They are in Europe, and it doesn't matter if we like that or not. There must be some provisions for them, and inadequate or not, they will cost money, but will not cause hyper-inflation.

Don't misunderstand me, I am not saying that the strategy I have in mind cannot fail. Your misgivings make sense. What you don't seem to see is that the alternative is so dystopian that for once we have a majority on our side: if you don't want to give refuge to these people, you must step up the mass murder (for that is the word for what the EU does in the Mediterranean). You must have a watertight police state controlling every movement, and not only movement across borders, really every movement. By doing that you would have given in to the fearmongering narratives of the far right, and they will then demand (and get) more. This is rejected by a far greater share of the population than everything else we had to say. In the case of Greece we had to argue against the dogma of 35 years, but now we are arguing in favour of existing humanitarian law, remember.

The humanitarian framework for refugees was created for European refugees, and there were far more refugees then than today. I wonder how many families in Europe there are without a history of seeking refuge somewhere in the last one or two generations? Empathy is very strong.  

I see a chance of leftist proposals being heard and being taken seriously, a chance that hasn't been here for a long time. Because we happen to have valid answers, and the right wing, not. :)

by Katrin on Fri Sep 4th, 2015 at 04:53:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The "cost of the refugees" is already becoming an issue:

Refugee crisis ′to cost Germany 10 billion euros′ | News | DW.COM | 06.09.2015

According to a report in the Sunday edition of German newspaper, the "Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung" (FAS), financial costs for Germany could reach anywhere between 9 and 10.5 billion euros by the end of the year. The figure is based on cost estimates from local governments around the country.

A refugee summit held by the German parliament in July budgeted 5.6 billion euros for an expected 450,000 asylum applications this year. In light of the recent mass influx of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, however, Germany is now expecting to take in some 800,000 by the end of December.

According to Germany's Federal Statistics Office, 2.4 billion euros were spent on caring for some 203,000 new asylum seekers last year.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Sep 6th, 2015 at 05:04:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding the 450,000 vs. 800,000, I read in an article somewhere in the German media that even the authorities were guilty of comparing apples to oranges: the first number is for asylum applications, the second is for registered refugees (filing asylum applications takes time if it happens at all).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Sep 6th, 2015 at 06:21:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It has been very instructive to see the example of soft power, the Hungarian border guards were overcome by sheer numbers of unarmed people. Unless they had opened fire on women and children with the eyes of the world upon them their role was revealed as futile.
Orban obviously had no stomach for genocide, thankfully. His threats to give three years prison to illegal immigrants were rightly seen as risible by anyone cognizant of what these refugees have suffered to get where they are, when even a cell and three bad meals is a giant upgrade thus a minor risk from starving behind barbed wire in a camp. As if Orban had that many jail cells anyway!
I see a possible paradox here... Conditions for unemployed youth in Europe are already appalling, you'd think that adding tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of refugees, would be a disaster in the making, (whipped up by the hard right for sure, as we see all around).
But it might work the other way too by forcing issues of economics, employment and ostensible homage to equality into the light, speeding up a possible resolution.
The pathos induced by the young child dead on the sand has shown the power of the media to shame those old white hardline racists on the euro right into holding back on massacres, to bend the rules and allow a human corridor to the only country in Europe which can afford to house and give work to so many needy.
This is also karmic, think how many hundreds of thousands emigrated before WW 2 with the rise of the pogroms in Germany. Those emigrants, along with so many Europeans fleeing poverty, went to make the famous melting pot America became as it rose to its industrial and imperial apex (before selling out the bulk of its manufacture abroad.)
I honestly don't think that under our present political conditions we can give a decent life and honest work to millions of immigrants, unless we radically change our political conditions here, getting rid of the ridiculous arms expenses like Trident and F35s, employing people in a new green economy.
I foresee a possible sea change induced by soft power, sheer numbers that dare the authorities to do their worst knowing they won't have the hardness of heart to do so.
More empathy pictures going viral will accelerate this overdue process. White male privilege sees this sea change as threat, to the rest of the world it's just justice.
It's nice to see Europe doing the right thing for 'foreigners', perhaps this kindness will be extended as generously to its own weak and afflicted, such as the poor in Greece getting strangled by austerity.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Sep 10th, 2015 at 08:44:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Scandal of Europe's 11m empty homes | Society | The Guardian

He said Europe's 11m empty homes might not be in the right places "but there is enough [vacant housing] to meet the problem of homelessness". There are 4.1 million homeless across Europe, according to the European Union. Guardian

Freek Spinnewijn, director of FEANTSA, an umbrella organisation of homelessness bodies across Europe, said it was a scandal that so many homes have been allowed to lie empty. "You would only need half of them to end homelessness," he said.

That leaves some flats for refugees then.

by Katrin on Sat Sep 5th, 2015 at 06:00:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hans Rosling, demographer, on the Syrian refugees:

20 million Syrians before the war.  12 million have left their homes since, 8 million internal refugees, 4 million emigrated, mostly to Turkey and other adjoining countries.  Only 250,000 have made it to Western Europe.

According to his figures.

Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 03:47:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
((*youtube 0_QrIapiNOw))

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 3rd, 2015 at 04:36:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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