The Refugee Crisis in Germany

On April 15, Michael Göring, chairman of the board of the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius, gave a lecture in Moses Hall on the refugee crisis in Germany. As he explained, a combination of war, terrorism and harsh conditions in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq has caused thousands of people to seek refuge in Europe. Many times, their desperateness leads them to enlist dangerous and, often, fatal methods to reach Europe. Chancellor Merkel has declared that Germany, a country with a long history of immigration, can handle this recent influx of refugees, but many German citizens are unsure. Anxiety towards these foreigners, especially as induced by the Paris and Brussels attacks, has led them to question whether helpless families or viscous terrorists have been allowed to enter their country. To alleviate pressure and curb the number of people coming into Germany, Chancellor Merkel entered into a contract with the Turkish government, granting Turkey six billion euros in exchange for the country’s agreement to take back refugees who arrive in Greece from Turkey. While Göring for the most part supports this deal, he expressed some concerns, especially with regards to the Turkish president’s questionable reputation as well as to Turkey’s preparedness to handle such a volume of people. Returning to the reception of refugees by the German population, Göring explained that most Germans are sympathetic to the plight of the refugees but are also stressed and anxious about the situation that has developed in Germany. This stress has resulted in a public mistrust of the government. Some people are skeptical of the refugees’ different cultural backgrounds, customs, and values; however, many people are also welcoming and want to help them, with ten percent of the German population actively contributing to integration efforts. For example, many university students have signed up to provide newly-arrived children with German-language instruction. In a discussion with the audience, Göring was asked if the influx of refugees really threatened German culture. He responded that social cohesion in Germany is strongly tied to a shared language and history. He added, however, that he is confident that refugees will soon learn Germany and integrate in German society. Another audience member asked if enough job and employment opportunities for these people exist in Germany, to which he answered yes. According to Göring, the German economy is currently strong and can support jobs, although better jobs for refugees will require lengthy vocational and language training at low pay. Overall, Göring is optimistic about the situation and believes that Germany will survive this crisis, all while helping millions of displaced people. But he admitted that Germany would face a serious crisis if many more refugees would arrive in the coming months.

Watch this presentation on YouTube.