In the past, when countries such as Germany took in large numbers of Turkish refugees, most newcomers were left to their own devices. In many countries this led to the creation of ghettos — the banlieues of Paris spring to mind. The same thing happened in the Netherlands, where large contingents of Turkish and Moroccan guest workers from the late 1960s onwards weren’t bothered with language courses or education programs. As a result, integration for many never happened, and cultural differences remained, much to the ire of many Dutch voters — some of whom subsequently revolted, adhering to politician Pim Fortuyn when he took a tough stance against newcomers and the country’s soft integration policies.
All this raises difficult questions for those in power. Do they have plans for the next phase — the integration phase? Will there be enough jobs for locals and for newcomers? The German economy needs labor force expansion; the country is greying fast. As this excellent overview by The Washington Post shows, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-borders policy is rooted not just in Samaritanism, but also in cold calculus. Germany is heading for major problems down the road because of a quickly shrinking labor force. And right now unemployment in Germany is at record lows. But what happens when the economy goes south again, as economies always do at some point, and unemployment rises?
In the Netherlands and France, unemployment is significantly higher (at 6.3 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively). The Dutch government set aside €900 million ($1.01 billion) to pay for refugees’ shelter, and promised still more. Unfortunately, the same government has in recent years made severe cutbacks on benefits for the long-term unemployed and for those on welfare, leading to logical (and tough to answer) questions, such as: Are refugees somehow more important than we, your own resident poor?