Quotes of the day

[E]ven as Hussein offers me a sharp, fresh juice, he’s downcast. When I ask about the subject on everyone’s mind here [in Baghdad] — the migrant flood into Europe — he laughs. “We were just talking about this!” he says. Several of his friends just passed by to say farewell.

They heard that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was welcoming Iraqis. “Each one said, ‘I’m traveling,’ ‘I’m traveling,’ ‘I’m traveling,’ ” says Hussein. All want to be smuggled to Europe…

The hundreds of thousands arriving in Europe are still a small percentage of the millions of refugees languishing in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, though most of them are too poor to make the trip. Banna says it’s the remnants of the middle classes who can just manage to pay the smugglers’ fees. But still, he sees no end to the exodus.

“I think it will be the same for the next years,” he says.

***

German Chancellor Angela Merkel planned to discuss Europe’s migrant crisis with her coalition partners Sunday, as Syrians, Iraqis and others fleeing war and persecution streamed into Germany for the second straight day.

An estimated 8,000 migrants had arrived in Germany as of early Sunday morning, according to Reuters. Officials had earlier told NBC News they had estimated 7,000 arrivals across the entire weekend…

“No decent person can remain cold and dismissive in the face of such suffering,” said Thomas Oppermann, a senior Social Democrat.

He added that refugees should be fairly distributed in Europe, and countries should not avoid their responsibilities. “Whoever refuses to do their part calls into question whether they can be part of Europe.”

***

German police said they expected a record 10,000 refugees to arrive through the southern state of Bavaria on Sunday.

About 6,000 had already arrived, mostly on trains and buses taking migrants from Hungary via Austria, and 4,000 more were expected, federal police told AFP.

***

“Germany! Germany! We want to go to Germany!” others cried, underscoring what has become perhaps a surprising historical irony of the present crisis…

Where once thousands of people tried frantically to get out of Germany, fearing the rise of Hitler and his diabolical policies, thousands now are trying – in some cases, literally dying – to get in. And the government in Berlin is welcoming them: It has pledged to take in an astonishing 800,000 asylum seekers, which far exceeds the total that the other 27 European Union countries, combined, have committed to accepting.

Human rights groups criticize what they say is the heartlessness of rich nations that have tried to bar the door to refugees, especially on a continent where Jews and other persecuted groups were unable to find safe havens in their hour of need…

“For a Christian, it shouldn’t matter what race, religion and nationality the person in need represents,” said EU President Donald Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland.

***

More than 7,000 Arab and Asian asylum seekers surged across Hungary’s western border into Austria and Germany following the latest erratic policy turn by Hungary’s immigrant-averse government. Within hours, travelers predominantly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who had been told for days they could not leave Hungary were scooped from roadsides and Budapest’s central train station and placed on overnight buses, driven to the frontier with Austria and allowed to walk across as a new day dawned.

They were met with unexpected hospitality featuring free high-speed trains, seemingly bottomless boxes of supplies, and well-wishers offering candy for everyone and cuddly toys for the children in mothers’ arms. Even adults absorbed the sudden welcome with a look of wonderment as Germans and Austrians made clear that they had reached a land that just might become a home…

[Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor] Orban said the people being taken by Germany mostly come “from regions that are not ravaged by war. They just want to live the kind of life that we have. And I understand that, but this is impossible. If we let everybody in, it’s going to destroy Europe.”…

“What will it solve if we divide 50,000 or 100,000 migrants among us, when uncountable millions will be on the way?” Orban said.

***

Greek riot police armed with shields and batons charged hundreds of angry refugees on the island of Lesbos on Saturday night, some of whom have been trapped on the island for two weeks…

Refugees voiced anger and frustration about the squalid conditions they are living in around the port of Lesbos’s main town, Mytilini, as they wait for the Greek authorities to issue permits that will allow them to board ferries to Athens and from there journey through the Balkans to northern Europe…

They are sleeping on the street or in tents pitched around the port. There is an acrid smell of urine and excrement.

Women with children and babies are sleeping out in the open in extreme heat. During the day temperatures are close to 100F.

***

The influx of refugees overwhelming parts of Europe is a massive crisis, but it is at just such times that it is worth remembering that the Chinese ideogram for “crisis” also means “opportunity”. Now is a unique opportunity to show that the ideals for which the European Union and other international bodies such as the United Nations were formed are still compelling, compassionate and humane…

A strong humanitarian response on the part of Europe and the international community could achieve what military intervention and political negotiation have failed to achieve. This would constitute the clearest evidence that the European experience of two world wars and the Holocaust have taught that free societies, where people of all faiths and ethnicities make space for one another, are the only way to honour our shared humanity, whether we conceive that humanity in secular or religious terms. Fail this and we will have failed one of the fundamental tests of humanity.

I used to think that the most important line in the Bible was “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Then I realised that it is easy to love your neighbour because he or she is usually quite like yourself. What is hard is to love the stranger, one whose colour, culture or creed is different from yours. That is why the command, “Love the stranger because you were once strangers”, resonates so often throughout the Bible. It is summoning us now. A bold act of collective generosity will show that the world, particularly Europe, has learned the lesson of its own dark past and is willing to take a global lead in building a more hopeful future.

***

Isaac Herzog, head of the main opposition Zionist Union party, appealed to Israeli leaders to “absorb refugees from the fighting in Syria”, a northern neighbor that Israel considers an enemy state.

In public remarks at a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said Israel was “not indifferent to the human tragedy” of refugees from Syria and noted that Israeli hospitals have been treating wounded from its civil war.

“However, Israel is a very small state. It has no geographic depth or demographic depth,” the right-wing premier said, suggesting that taking in Arab refugees would upset the demographic balance in a predominantly Jewish state where about a fifth of the 8.3 million population are Arab citizens…

“The prime minister of the Jewish people would not shut his heart and the gates when people are fleeing for their lives, with babies in their arms, from persecutors,” Herzog said.

***

[A]s millions of Syrian refugees languish elsewhere in the Middle East and many have risked their lives to reach Europe or died along the way, Gulf nations have agreed to resettle only a surprisingly small number of refugees.

As the migration crisis overwhelms Europe and after images of a drowned Syrian toddler crystallized Syrian desperation, humanitarian groups are increasingly accusing the Arab world’s richest nations of not doing enough to help out.

Accenting that criticism are the deep but shadowy roles countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia have played in Syria by bankrolling rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad…

“Burden sharing has no meaning in the Gulf, and the Saudi, Emirati and Qatari approach has been to sign a check and let everyone else deal with it,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch for its Middle East and North Africa division. “Now everyone else is saying, ‘That’s not fair.’”

***

Gulf states have cited possible security concerns, and worries that Syrians might eventually compete for jobs. But to the Syrians, the answer is simple: they are not welcome…

Despite these barriers being put in place by Gulf states, there are also reasons why Syrians aren’t seeking out refuge in those countries. Although they are escaping the terror of Islamic State militants and a country wrecked by chemical weapons from an ongoing, five-year civil war, Syria was a remarkably free and educated country in its heyday. Syria’s capital, Damascus, was once the “playground” in the region, a city where alcohol, Western dress and education were freely available.

The Gulf states, on the other hand, have harsh laws restricting citizens’ freedoms to talk, dress, and interact. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, women are not allowed to drive cars. And in Qatar, people can be fined for uncovering their knees, cuddling, or playing a song with “indecent phrases.”

For their part, the Gulf states say they are not indifferent to Syrians’ suffering and point to the billions of dollars of aid and the camps they have set up in Jordan and Lebanon. The United Arab Emirates spent $540 million in relief aid to set up a camp in Jordan and another in northern Iraq, a U.A.E. official told Bloomberg.

***

A majority of British people would vote to leave the European Union in the wake of the migrant crisis engulfing the continent, a shock new Mail on Sunday poll has found.

If a referendum were to be held tomorrow on whether to remain a member of the EU, 51 per cent of British people would vote ‘No’.

It follows a string of polls over recent years which have given comfortable leads to the pro-European camp. Significantly, it is the first measure of public opinion since the Government changed the wording of the referendum question, lending weight to claims that the new phrasing boosts the chances of victory for the ‘Out’ campaign…

Growing public support to cut all ties with Brussels came as it was revealed the Prime Minister told Merkel to her face: ‘I could walk away from the EU.’

***

But if those praising Merkel’s “brave” stance were honest, they would acknowledge that she isn’t offering any long-term solutions either. Even if Europe does take another couple of hundred thousand people, dividing them up among countries — as it should — that won’t prevent others from coming. To avoid accusations of heartlessness, the Italian coast guard rescues thousands of people from tiny boats and rubber dinghies. As a result, people keep taking the terrible risk.

Here is what no one wants to say: This is, in essence, a security crisis. For years now, Europeans have chosen to pretend that wars taking place in Syria and Libya were somebody else’s problem. It’s also a foreign policy crisis: At different times and for different reasons, all of the large European states — Britain, France, Italy, Germany — have blocked attempts to create a common foreign and defense policy, and as a result they have no diplomatic or political clout.

They haven’t wanted European leadership, and most of them wouldn’t have wanted U.S. leadership either, even if any had been on offer. The richest economy in the world has a power vacuum at its heart and no army. Now the consequences are literally washing up on Europe’s shores.

***

The failure to act against the Assad regime and against the Isil forces which have benefited from that failure, has created the conditions for a crisis which has no solution. Having largely ignored the problem through the summer – perhaps because most of the EU high command was on holiday – European leaders have suddenly sprung into incoherent and contradictory action. So the original irresponsibility has now been compounded by a desperate frenzy of implausible policy-making to deal with the migrant influx…

The nations of the old Soviet bloc which are struggling to get their fledgling economies established are being turned into a chaotic corridor for waves of migrants seeking the benevolence of rich, secure countries like Germany and Sweden. As Mr Orban said: “Nobody wants to stay in Hungary [or] Slovakia, nor Poland, nor Estonia. All want to go to Germany.” And yet his country, and potentially others which have the misfortune to be on the Balkan land route, are being forced to cope with the consequences of this mass movement of peoples. Imagine if you were a poor householder, just managing to keep your financial head above water while you attempted to turn your circumstances around, and a very wealthy neighbour decided to throw open his doors to the needy – and one obvious way that those in need could reach that welcoming haven was by tramping through your house. Might you find yourself inclined to be unhelpful in the hopes of discouraging others from taking the same path?

The real fear of the Hungarians and their fellow Eastern Europeans is that the uncontrolled flow of migrants will force an end to the EU free movement policy which was one of the great attractions of membership for those states. And, of course, they are absolutely right. It is almost inevitable that border controls will be re-established for the duration of the present emergency. Arguably the Schengen principle is one of the causes of this crisis. It is now clearly understood all over the world that all of rich modern Europe will become instantly accessible if you can manage to set foot on any corner of an EU state: so the tiniest Greek island or the southernmost tip of the poorest region of Italy, which have no resources for registering and processing the arrival of huge numbers of people, become the entry points for unrestricted movement. What was intended to be a domestic freedom for Europeans within their own continent has become unbounded territory for the desperate populations of the world. This surely must be the irresistible pitch of the people traffickers…

In any event, the quotas and forcible redistribution which are coming to those European states where popular resistance is not getting much of a hearing will be meaningless concepts if there is unrestricted movement of people between countries. Anyone “redistributed” to a country he doesn’t like could just jump on a train and redistribute himself to the place he actually wanted to live.

***

[T]he countries that have opened the door widest are places like Germany and Sweden, which are motivated by a different theory of moral obligation: A utilitarian universalism, which holds that the world’s wealthy nations have an obligation to accept refugees, period, regardless of whether their own governments bear any responsibility for the crisis that produced them…

The utilitarian theory is blind to the realities of culture, the challenges of assimilation, the dangers and inevitability of backlash. It takes what is a deep, long-term issue for European society — one way or another, over the next century the continent will have to absorb large numbers of new arrivals, from Africa especially — and brings things to a crisis point right now. And then it tries to evade that crisis by treating dissent as illegitimate, which only works until it doesn’t: One day you have a pro-immigration “consensus,” and the next a party with fascist roots is leading Sweden’s polls.

So prudence has to temper idealism on these issues. There may be a moral obligation to accept refugees in wealthy countries, but there cannot be a moral obligation to accept refugees at a pace one’s own society cannot reasonably bear

[I]t’s … reasonable to worry that by accepting hundreds of thousands of refugees on a continent already struggling with assimilation, and making itself a magnet for still more, Germany is failing in its obligations to its own.

***

As a child of a “guest worker” who grew up in Germany in the 90s, I can’t claim to be completely impartial about this debate. Phrases such as “Germany can’t take all refugees in the world” or “They can stay, but do they really need an apartment on their own?” give me the creeps. I hear them from conservative politicians. I hear them from colleagues and friends, none of them racist. Butsuch comments remind me of those flung at my father, whose family was killed by the Nazis in Yugoslavia. Even after 30 years of living and working in Germany he had to listen to people telling him: “Isn’t it nice that we let you work here?”

Maybe my fears are as arbitrary as the resentments of rightwing Germans who demonstrate in front of refugee shelters in Dresden or Heidenau. But when I listen to the “good Germans”, I often ask myself: what is going to happen, when the new refugees demand more than a tent, a bottle of water and a slice of bread? How will German society deal with this next turning point? What if it turns out that not every refugee has the skills to equip them for the “made in Germany” brand? Will Willkommenskultur end, when it involves not just singing Hallelujah together, but helping people to become autonomous and articulate their own wishes? Will the liberal segment of German society that is drawing so much praise right now have the determination to fight their own government and abolish Dublin III and Schengen? Or will “Willkommen” be just a slogan on the doormat again?

***

***

Via RCP.