By Peter Baofu, Ph.D.
The current shift in policy towards the Middle Eastern refugee influx in Germany conceals a larger (often unspoken) double politics of immigration in the European Union (EU), that is, (a) needed migrants today and (b) second-class residents tomorrow. Why is there such a seeming contradiction? Let me answer this question in what follows.
(1) Needed migrants today
When the German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked other member states of the EU some weeks ago to accept more refugees (mostly Muslims from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan) as a "moral responsibility," many ordinary folks do not know that she is the same person who, back in 2010, vigorously argued against "multiculturalism" and condemned it as an "abject failure" in German society.
In that year, her colleague "Thilo Sarrazin published his book 'Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab' ('Germany Does Away with Itself'), warning that Muslim immigrants were ruining German society. It shot to the top of the best-seller lists," as aptly pointed out by Paul Carrel and Noah Barkin for Reuters on September 13, 2015.
So, a good question here is, Why is this shift in policy (or this "about face")? The answer is, "It is economics, stupid," which has little to do with "moral responsibility" in reality. In other words, Germany currently faces a chronic aging population with severe labor shortages, coupled with the desire to sustain a healthy economic growth.
For instance, "the German population, with a very low birth rate, is expected to drop to 70 million from 81 million by 2060, and the government's obsession with balancing the budget stems partly from the nagging thought it will become more difficult to finance the pension system in coming years," so "the refugees could eventually play an important part in revitalizing Germany's ageing population" and "the migrants are also a precious source of labor for industry, which has been complaining of a shortage of workers" (especially, though not exclusively, in regard to those "dirty jobs" that many relatively better-off Germans do not want anymore), as reported by Damien Stroka for AFP on September 10, 2015.
In a way, this is not totally news, since West Germany (before unification) had a long history of importing "guest workers" after WWII to ease its labor shortages; for instance, "in the decades after the war, West Germany encouraged immigration as a way of tackling labor shortages, but described those who came from countries such as Turkey, Italy and Greece as 'Gastarbeiter,' or guest workers, as if to reassure the population that they would return home once the work was done," as Paul Carrel and Noah Barkin reported.
But the past history of German immigration has its dark side (often unspoken), because economic needs are inherently instable, as they all depend on the ups and downs of the economic cycle, so what is treated as a needed labor injection in good times can easily become an unwanted burden in hard times.
For instance, in Germany, "the generous asylum laws encountered their first real challenge in the 1990s when hundreds of thousands fled north to escape war as Yugoslavia disintegrated....In the east, refugees became targets of the far-right. In response, German politicians pushed for a tightening of asylum guidelines. This led to the EU writing the 'Dublin' rules, which oblige migrants to seek asylum in the first member state they enter. The assumption was that this would shield Germany, a country where citizenship had long been viewed through the prism of bloodline and culture," as Paul Carrel and Noah Barkin reported.
This then leads us to the second part of the story: "second-class residents" tomorrow.
(b) Second-class residents tomorrow
"Needed migrants" can be warmly welcomed to the EU today, but they can easily become "second-class residents" tomorrow.
In Germany, only several months ago (in 2015), there were "massive anti-Islam rallies in the former communist east at the start of the year and, more recently, violent anti-refugee protests," as Paul Carrel and Noah Barkin reported.
Of course, no one is saying that many Germans (except the neo-Nazis) still think of themselves as the "master race," but the worry here is that "this openness, built on a generation that grew up after the fall of the Berlin Wall, is fragile. If the economy dips, if the country struggles to integrate the new arrivals, or if Germans conclude Merkel's government cannot manage the influx, then the progress could evaporate. 'The truth is that it wouldn't take much to shift the discourse,' says Rita Chin of the University of Michigan," as Paul Carrel and Noah Barkin reported.
In fact, things are already shifting towards that direction. For instance, "Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere became the latest and most senior figure in her [Merkel's] government yet to criticize the Chancellor's policy, telling national TV that 'the situation got out of control with the decision to bring the people in Hungary over to Germany'....But after an emotional wave of popular support, opinions have started to turn as the cost and difficulty of absorbing the inflow becomes clear. De Maizière gave the order to reintroduce border controls in Germany for the first time in nearly 20 years earlier this month, while Merkel on Tuesday night forced through a plan at E.U. to ensure that not all of the 120,000 refugees and migrants currently backed up at choke-points in Greece, Italy and Hungary end up in Germany. Merkel has had to face sharp criticism from the leaders of Hungary, Croatia and others closer to home after seeming to encourage a flow of people across their territory," and one should not forget that "De Maizière...has been one of her [Merkel's] most loyal and reliable allies for over a decade -- having been chief of staff and Minister for Special Affairs during her 10-year rule," as Geoffrey Smith reported on September 25, 2015. So, the point here is that, if even one of Merkel's most loyal and reliable allies openly criticizes the wisdom of her policy, how much more will her critics and skeptics reject it?
Elsewhere in the EU (including the "most generous immigration regimes" in the Nordics), there is the persistent widespread racism and discrimination against migrants as second-class residents (and in other cases, as underclass citizens). In Sweden, for instance, "there is flip side -- one of the poorest records among wealthy industrialized nations of integrating newcomers, especially thousands of refugees, into its labor force. That failure to provide jobs, a cornerstone to fuller acceptance into society, has helped create an ethnic underclass, straining Sweden's open-mindedness toward foreigners and fuelling the far right -- a trend mirrored across the Nordics,...A 2013 OECD study said the unemployment rate for foreign-born Swedish citizens is nearly three times more than for those native born -- the second worst in the OECD after Norway. Denmark and Finland are also near the bottom of the table," as reported by Simon Johnson and Johan Sennero for Reuters on September 02, 2015.
In 2013, "Sweden awoke to problems of a growing underclass...when riots erupted in Stockholm's mainly immigrant suburbs, with youths burning cars and battling police....'For every 10 applications someone with a Swedish-sounding name has to send to get one job interview, a person called Mohammad Ali has to send 20,' said Moa Bursell, researcher at the Institute for Futures Studies. It is not just about refugees. Roma migrants who have set up makeshift camps outside Stockholm, begging outside IKEA stores and metro entrances, have shocked Swedes," as reported by Simon Johnson and Johan Sennero.
The refugee influx, indeed, "has helped fuel the far right, whose arguments that jobs, welfare and cherished social stability are threatened have struck a chord. A deadly attack on a Copenhagen synagogue at an event promoting free speech and a fatal stabbing by an asylum seeker in an IKEA store in Sweden have strengthened feelings among some Scandinavians that immigrants remain outsiders. A new mosque in Copenhagen has sparked opposition while hundreds of Finns protested recently against the opening of an asylum center in Nokia's home town. Anti-immigrant parties are part of governments in Finland and Norway, while in Denmark the Danish People's Party and Sweden's Sweden Democrats vie for first place in polls," as reported by Simon Johnson and Johan Sennero.
In France, in 2005, in 2006, in 2010, in 2013, and again in 2014, there were serious Muslim riots to protest against widespread racism and discrimination against them; for instance, in 2005 alone, "riots broke out in 300 towns for three weeks....Fires were set to over 300 buildings and over 9,000 cars. A state of emergency was declared and nearly 3,000 rioters were arrested and 126 police officers were injured. Schools, gyms, stores, churches, and police stations were attacked as the rioters clashed with police. Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal would later boast that he convinced Rupert Murdoch to order Fox News to stop describing the rioters as Muslims," as reported by Ryan Mauro on July 22, 2010.
In the U.K., "in the early 1980s, societal racism, discrimination and poverty -- alongside further perceptions of powerlessness and oppressive policing -- sparked a series of riots in areas with substantial African-Caribbean populations....A 2004 report identified both 'racial discrimination' and an 'extreme racial disadvantage' in Britain, concluding that urgent action was needed to prevent these issues becoming an 'endemic, ineradicable disease threatening the very survival of our society.' The era saw an increase in attacks on black people by white people. The Joint Campaign Against Racism committee reported that there had been more than 20,000 attacks on British people of colour [i.e., non-whites, not just blacks]...during 1985" alone, and these attacks have continued to this very day, as reported in Wikipedia.
Angela Merkel is no stranger to these "about face" missteps, which many professional politicians are good at doing, although she has a greater share of this than others. For instance, in 2011, she decided "to phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster, having previously backed atomic energy" -- and in 2010, "she declared the death of multiculturalism" but recently opened the borders to Muslim refugees, just as, all of a sudden shortly afterwards, she allowed the borders to be shut again after criticisms from her closest allies and other member states in the EU, as Paul Carrel and Noah Barkin reported.
Professional politicians in liberal democracy double-speak and double-act (or even triple-speak and triple-act), depending on the changing political circumstances at a historical point in time. But the important point to remember here is that their moving rhetoric can melt ice, but the practical consequences of their policy speak volumes of the hidden interests (among conflicting groups) on the ground not so nice for others to know.
Thus speaks the double politics of immigration in the EU behind the soft rhetoric of "moral responsibility" -- which is that "needed migrants" today can easily become "second-class residents" tomorrow in the European Union.
Dr. Peter Baofu was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and had taught as a Professor at different universities in America, Western Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East, the Balkans, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. He was educated in the states, with more than 5 academic degrees (including a Ph.D. from M.I.T. in Cambridge, Massachusetts), was a summa cum laude graduate, and was awarded the Delta Sigma Pi Scholarship Key for being at the top of the class in the College of Business Administration, with another student. He is the author of 82 books and 84 new theories (as well as numerous articles), all of which provide a visionary challenge to all conventional wisdom in the social sciences, the formal sciences, the natural sciences, and the humanities, with the aim for a "unified theory of everything" -- together with numerous visions of the mind, nature, society, and culture in future history. He can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.