Quotes of the day

Clutching prayer beads and a documented death threat from the Taliban, Mirwais joins a queue outside Kabul’s passport office, potentially among a second wave of migrants attempting perilous journeys to Europe, inspired by images of refugees being welcomed…

The prospect of a new tide of war refugees — from Afghanistan to Iraq and North Africa — poses a daunting challenge for EU policymakers already scrambling for a unified response to the overwhelming influx of people.

“The flood gates are open -– and this is our best chance to reach Europe,” said 28-year-old Mirwais, a former translator at an American base in the volatile eastern province of Kunar.


There was a time, in living memory, when refugees clamoured to board trains to get out of Germany. Today they yearn to board trains going in. “We want to go to Germany because we will get our rights, we are welcome there,” one refugee told the Guardian’s John Domokos, as he walked alongside a group making the journey on foot through Hungary, en route to what they saw as the ultimate place of sanctuary: the promised Deutschland…

But soon there will be a new set of memories. Yes, Munich will be for ever linked with the bierkeller where Hitler made his first rabble-rousing speeches. But now it will be remembered too as the place where in 2015 uniformed police greeted a trainload of exhausted Syrian children with soft toys. In future, the sight of a vast German crowd will recall not just Nuremberg, but those signs held up by football fans declaring: “Refugees welcome.”…

Others suspect it’s events of the past five years, rather than five weeks, that have been pivotal. Throughout the euro crisis Germany was cast in parts of the continent as the hard-faced villain, imposing searing austerity on the benighted people of Greece. Not much of that had penetrated German public consciousness until the crisis reached its peak this summer, says Hans Kundnani of the German Marshall Fund. Suddenly Germans saw Merkel depicted on Greek placards as Hitler, cracking down on the poor Greeks. Confronting that image of the “ugly German” was, says Kundnani, a shock. He reckons Germany’s current embrace of Syrian refugees is partly an effort to replace that austere image with a kinder, gentler one. They don’t like to be seen as the continent’s bully, for reasons of history that are obvious.


With a morbidly low birthrate and a flat-lining population, hundreds of schools have ­already been shuttered. Some neighborhoods, particularly in the increasingly vacant east, have become ghost towns. For Germans, it has raised a serious question: Who will build the Volkswagens and Mercedes of tomorrow?…

Germany is rolling out the welcome mat as its unemployment rate has fallen to 6.2 percent — one of the lowest in Europe. Trade and service companies — from caterers to plumbing firms — are struggling to find new workers, with more than 37,000 trainee positions unfilled, according to the Federal Employment Agency.

Couple that with that fact that many of the asylum seekers — especially Syrians — are highly educated or skilled workers and include doctors, engineers and architects. And suddenly, for Germany, some say, what initially seems like a crisis becomes something else.

“As the asylum seekers are fairly well qualified, there is a good chance they will become valuable parts of our workforce in the coming years,” said Reiner Klingholz, director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development. “We won’t reverse our population loss, but we could shrink less.”


Thousands of people joined anti-migrant protests in three eastern European capitals on Saturday after leaders from the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia opposed an EU scheme to fix refugee quotas…

Members of far-right fringe parties and football supporters chanted “Poles against migrants” and “Migrants today, terrorists tomorrow”…

Around 1,500 anti-migrant protestors also rallied in the Slovak capital Bratislava, some holding up banners reading: “You’re not welcome here so go home”, an AFP correspondent said.

Another said: “Multiculturalism is a utopia, don’t open the borders”.


Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico, says his country will accept only Christian refugees as it would be “false solidarity” to force Muslims to settle in a country without a single mosque. Viktor Orban, Hungary’s hard-line prime minister, calls the influx a “rebellion by illegal migrants” and pledges a new crackdown this week…

When representatives of the European Union nations meet on Monday to take up a proposal for allocating refugees among them, Central and Eastern Europen nations are likely to be the most vocal opponents. Their stance — reflecting a mix of powerful far-right movements, nationalism, racial and religious prejudices as well as economic arguments that they are less able to afford to take in outsiders than their wealthier neighbors — is the latest evidence of the stubborn cultural and political divides that persist between East and West…

“People must remember that Poland has been transitioning from communism for only 25 years,” Lech Walesa, who led that country’s independence movement, said in an interview. “Our salaries and houses are still smaller than those in the West. Many people here don’t believe that they have anything to share with migrants. Especially that they see that migrants are often well-dressed, sometimes better than many Poles.”…

“The attitude is: We didn’t meddle in these countries that are now sending the refugees, like other nations did, and so we have no sense of guilt about our obligation to deal with them,” Mr. Zaborowski said.


Hungary’s hard-line prime minister highlighted stark divisions in Europe over a growing migrant crisis, telling a German newspaper in an interview published Saturday that refugees entering the continent should go back “where they came from.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in an interview with Bild, argued that rather than opening borders to a flood of largely Syrian refugees, the European Union should create a $3.4 billion aid package for Turkey and Middle East countries to improve refugee camps that are the first stop for families fleeing war…

Orban argued in his interview with Bild that large numbers of arriving Muslims threaten Europe’s “Christian culture.”


A recent Oxoda poll showed that a majority of those surveyed are opposed to the French government’s decision to accept more refugees. The same poll showed that 61 percent were in favor of France sending ground troops to Syria to fight the Islamic State, suggesting that the French public is more comfortable with handling the refugee crisis from outside French borders than within.

“Immigrants have always been the scapegoats in France, and the government has not always had a responsible discourse on immigration,” says Mathieu Tardis, a researcher at the migration and citizenship center within the Paris-based think tank IFRI.

In France, the anti-immigration rhetoric has largely been led by National Front leader Marine Le Pen, but it has hit mainstream politics as well. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is considering a 2017 presidential bid, recently called for an end to the Schengen zone and compared Europe’s migrant inflow to a “leaky tap.” Several mayors have said they will only accept non-Muslim migrants into their communities.


The opposing positions are likely to continue dividing Republicans, who are torn between heartbreaking images of refugees fleeing violence and the prospect of opening the country up to immigrants with potentially murky backgrounds…

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) — who is among the more conservative lawmakers on immigration issues and has spoken to Trump on the issue — blasted out a chart to reporters this week suggesting that more than 90 percent of recent refugees from the Middle East are on food stamps. 

Sessions said, separately, that the United States has done “more than its fair share for decades,” insisting instead that countries in the region should accept more refugees. 

Our guiding principle should be to help assist in the placement of refugees as close to their homes as possible, and to take such action as we are able to aid their return home in a stable situation,” he added. “This strategy will not only reduce the numbers making dangerous treks, but will create more impetus for political reforms in the region.”


“We are a nauseating nation,” wrote the Saudi journalist ‘Ali Sa’d Al-Moussa in Al-Watan on September 5, in reaction to images of Syrians and other refugees fleeing to Europe. The “nation” he was angrily condemning was not only Saudi Arabia, but the greater Arab world. It is a world, he lamented, “that kills people for their opinions or affiliation. Compare [this] to the parallel image: in the central train station in Munich, dozens of German citizens gather to welcome the first train arriving from Budapest carrying hundreds of immigrants…

“We should feel some sense of shame for being victims of an education [based on] curses, which has been adopted by all the circles, schools, speeches and platforms—from the pan-Arabists and the Nasserites to the Ba’thists and the Islamic extremists. After all these curses and inculcation of hatred, we discover that the [norms of] tolerance and acceptance [that characterize] European society have become a goal worth risking our lives for[.] Europe is now home to 11 million Arab immigrants… who have attained rights and have a prospect of receiving citizenship, equality and justice under the law—all the things whose absence drove them to flee their Arab countries of origin…”…

But that silence is not absolute. Back on March 17, Fahd Al-Shelaimi, a Kuwaiti and the Chairman of the Gulf Forum for Peace and Security, was interviewed by the Arabic-language service of the French news channel, France24. He was asked then why the Gulf states, including Kuwait, were refusing to take in refugees. His answer speaks for itself: “At the end of the day, you cannot accept other people, who come from a different atmosphere, from a different place… These are people who suffer from psychological problems, from trauma, and you [cannot] place them in [Gulf] societies just like that.”


This is perplexing. The vast majority of the wave is from war-torn countries, obviously, so we would assume the demographics would show the normal mix of both males and females, whether adults or children; a roughly 50-50 breakdown. It also would be reasonable to assume that whole families would come north in search of peace and stability.

But since more than 70 percent are adult males, one should ask, why such a gender breakdown? Why so few children compared to adults (only about 15 percent are children)?…

Let me bluntly suggest one possible reason why there are so many males and so few children and women: this is a migrant wave and not a refugee wave. That is, great numbers of men are fleeing countries that are mired in poverty and getting worse economically precisely because they are so ridden with conflict and also because they are governed by economic illiterates and kleptocrats.

They are fleeing such areas—as men have done for centuries—not simply because of violence, or they would be taking their families with them. Rather, they are fleeing poverty because for years Europe has been a haven for economic migrants and more lately Europe has allowed unusually large numbers to come in with no policy to deal with a massive upsurge of migration.


Muslim radicals in Germany are trying to recruit some of the growing numbers of asylum seekers reaching the country, according to intelligence services quoted by the German news agency DPA.

The Islamic extremists “are trying to approach the young unaccompanied refugees, who arrive in our country without their families and are particularly looking for contacts and support,” a spokesman for the intelligence service in the southern state of Bavaria told DPA…

The Islamic extremists “want to take advantage of the insecurity and distress of the refugees,” he said.


[R]efugees from the Islamic world cannot be properly vetted. I don’t mean only that the Obama administration has a frivolous approach to “violent extremists,” or that the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t shown itself especially competent in this regard. Rather, it is impossible to weed out jihadists from a refugee flow. Who are we going to check with, the Damascus police department? It’s not like any document claiming to be from Syria can be relied on; fake Syrian passports, for instance, are in great demand.

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, acknowledged the problem the other day, noting that “We don’t obviously put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees.” But even he was overly optimistic, claiming that the U.S. has a “pretty aggressive” system of background checks before admitting refugees. I have no doubt our people are doing their best, but James Bond and Superman could team up to do the background checks and they’d still fail, given the utter lack of any information to go on…

Of course, one way of addressing the security concerns would be to resettle only Christians from Syria, which some countries are considering. Even that would entail careful scrutiny to make sure they weren’t Muslims who studied “Christianity for Dummies” just to pass the test. But I’ll wash the car of everybody reading this post if the Obama administration actually does that.


There is a link between the civilized world’s reaction to the [Mohammed cartoons] a decade ago, and the migratory invasions today. Because if we can’t be honest about Islam, we can’t be honest about the nature of what is happening on Europe’s borders: These are not families of “refugees” – young, old, men, women, children – but an army of aggressive young men. Their arrival will further weaken the Continent’s wobbly commitment to core liberties. The argument against free speech is increasingly that it is unwise to be so “provocative”. With a million more Muslim males in the neighborhood, there will be a million more reasons to tiptoe around lest one accidentally “provoke” someone.


The beginning of a rational policy would be to discourage people from making the hideously trying and dangerous journey in the first place, and in this, learn from the Australian experience.

Australia’s geography, of course, is an advantage in enforcing its borders. It still had asylum-seekers arriving by sea. It adopted a policy with bipartisan support of “stopping the boats.”

Australia doesn’t allow people seeking asylum to remain in the country while their claims are considered; instead, they are sent to facilities overseas. The number of boats arriving went from 300 in 2013 to 0 a year later.

By the same token, Europe should insist that people applying for asylum do it from outside of Europe, from safe havens along the border or even inside Syria and from countries in the regions from which migrants are fleeing.


But in this crisis talk of “the elites” is pertinent. The gap between those who run governments and those who are governed has now grown huge and portends nothing good.

Rules on immigration and refugees are made by safe people. These are the people who help run countries, who have nice homes in nice neighborhoods and are protected by their status. Those who live with the effects of immigration and asylum law are those who are less safe, who see a less beautiful face in it because they are daily confronted with a less beautiful reality—normal human roughness, human tensions. Decision-makers fear things like harsh words from the writers of editorials; normal human beings fear things like street crime. Decision-makers have the luxury of seeing life in the abstract. Normal people feel the implications of their decisions in the particular.

The decision-makers feel disdain for the anxieties of normal people, and ascribe them to small-minded bigotries, often religious and racial, and ignorant antagonisms. But normal people prize order because they can’t buy their way out of disorder.

People in gated communities of the mind, who glide by in Ubers, have bought their way out and are safe. Not to mention those in government-maintained mansions who glide by in SUVs followed by security details. Rulers can afford to see national-security threats as an abstraction—yes, yes, we must better integrate our new populations. But the unprotected, the vulnerable, have a right and a reason to worry.