German Chancellor Angela Merkel has certainly had a lot to think about since the recent round of elections where her party lost a significant amount of ground in the Bundestag. Her initial attempts at forging a new ruling coalition fell apart completely, though there have recently been signs that she may pull off a different agreement if she’s willing to make certain concessions. The biggest item on that agenda will be agreeing to back down on the open border policies she enacted during her previous term. The other parties know this is a toxic subject and one they don’t want to be tied very closely to.
Merkel has already had to agree to put caps on migration, but that’s not going far enough for most of her peers. They’ve heard from their constituents and most of them are very unhappy with the status quo. And things haven’t been going swimmingly for many of the migrants either. NBC News has a new report out this week indicating that many of the Syrian refugees either can’t or won’t fully integrate into German society. They feature an interview with Anas Maghrebi, a 27-year-old Syrian musician who hasn’t found “becoming a German” to be to his liking.
More than 18 months after arriving, he is only now beginning to learn German.
“It’s not like I come here and all of a sudden I’m a free bird,” he explained.
As for integration “it’s a really tricky term,” he mused, fidgeting with the tools of his trade. “I really don’t know if I even understand the term.”
Maghrebi’s arrival in Europe coincided with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open Germany’s borders to tens of thousands of exhausted asylum-seekers and migrants waiting at crossings from Hungary. Many were Syrians fleeing a conflict that has killed more than 400,000 and displaced millions.
It’s no wonder that the flood of immigrants is overwhelming for many Germans. As the NBC report recounts, in 2015 alone more than one million migrants arrived. In a country with a population of roughly 80 million, that’s the equivalent of the United States taking in four million, largely unvetted migrants each year. (We actually take in around 600,000 and it’s a much larger nation to fit them into.)
Another alarming statistic is that several years after the flood of incoming migrants surged, only 16% of them now have jobs. Germany has had one of the most vibrant, thriving economies in Europe but that’s a seriously large number of people to suddenly shove onto the dole. This doesn’t only put an increased strain on resources but on the nerves of Germans who wind up resenting that volume of traffic taking advantage of their generous nature.
Crime has also been on the rise. This covers all sort of infractions, but the Germans really seem to grow more concerned when they see a headline covering something like the last terror plot that was uncovered. (I’ll save you a click. The suspects are six Syrian “refugees.”)
Assuming that Merkel doesn’t lose the Chancellor’s office entirely, this failure of the new arrivals to integrate will likely prompt additional compromises and changes in policy. The new agreement on migration quotas sets the cap at 200,000 but many of her opponents still consider that too high. Small wonder that the right wing AfD party did so well this year. Particularly when they have billboards like this all over the country.
If you need the German translated for you, it reads, “Burqas? We prefer bikinis.”