Letter from Germany – Notes on the refugee crisis in Europe

by Christl Stephanblome

Refugee-GroupChristl Stephanblome - croppedThese people run for their lives. No matter how dangerous it is. Families come and they bring their small children. Young children come – alone. They come, whether sun is shining, whether it rains, whether it is cold. They walk. They cross mountains and streams. some of them have been on the road for months. They cross the Mediterranean,  whether it could cost their lives or not, they take every boat that will take them, no matter whether it is seagoing or not, no matter what it costs, they pay the people smugglers, who earn millions. They come to the thousands per day. Last Thursday to Friday, 17./18.9.2015, 14000
refugee came to Croatia, which closed the border to Serbia, ready to declare a state of emergency. The refugees are waiting for transport on the road. The heat is up to 40°. They come from Syria, Iraq, Africa, Afghanistan, Somalia and other countries. They find shelter in Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon. But not all of them stay there, but want to go to Europe. People from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea are allowed to  stay in Europe without question, others are sent back, especially those from the West Balkan.

Germany and Austria opened their doors, other countries are reluctant to do so. The difficulty is to register them or to send them back to the so called safe countries (Schengen Treaty). Therefore we try to meet them when they arrive at the
border, where they can ask for asylum as such in need of protection, conformable to our Basic Law. But not the border of all the European countries are open for them.All are involved: Volunteers, charity organizations, the personnel of the the state
and the federal lands, the citizens of towns and and villages. and so on. Munich, for example  is working fast and unconventionally. There the refugees are received with welcomes, the citizens expect them, so they get water, food, medical care, and the little ones get toys. From there they are sent to those places, where they also can ask for asylum. From there they will be send to one of the Federal Lands, e.g. North Rhine- Westphalia, which has to take in 21.2452$%, that is the highest quota.

Then they will be brought to places to live until their application is approved; that can take months. Bureaucracy is slow, but the government is working on it, to make it faster and less complicated. Leverkusen (population 164,000, foreigners
2,1500) e.g. will take in 1500 refugees until now.

Now you will understand what is missing: housing like flats, gym halls, tents etc., but also clerks, teachers, interpreters for  Urdu, Farsi, Dari, Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, psychotherapists –  most of the refugees are traumatised – , social workers,
physicians , in the meantime refugees with medical training get a special pass etc. First of all they have to learn German. A lot of them, especially Syrian people are educated, speaking at least English, but also French or other languages. They are eager
to learn, most of them. And they are also welcome for economical reasons. But the main work concerns the integration into our culture, our law, our way of life. This is the first overwhelming immigration of people who lived in another culture area.

Besides that, we are receiving Germans who come back to their home country. But we are also losing citizens who emigrate to foreign countries. But still more are coming in. We don’t know what number. The government is cautious about publishing numbers, probably because nobody knows the exact number or the number of  people immigrating illegally.

As you will realize not all of our citizens like the idea of asylum seekers, so there was violence and protest against this violence.
Our government tries to convince country leaders to try to inform their people,what they are up to when they migrate, let them register and ask for asylum before they leave their home country. And to better the situation in these countries so that there will be no need to leave. That will be costly for our country, to pay for development of economies and for building up an infrastructure in those countries.

I think in the meantime we are trained to cooperate with all the human beings, displaced and persecuted, who came and are coming into our country since WWII. After the end of the war 12 million came into a totally destroyed country. Then came the alien employees, mostly from Turkey, then people from Kazakhstan, the Ukraine, Russia, Poland, South-America, the Boat People, the Bosnians, and from the former German Democratic Republic, you name it.

So the question is asked what will become of our country. The task is great and  will last years. It would be interesting to come back after let’s say thirty years to have a look. Will they live in peace? After all there would be a lot of people who knew
war and violence. That certainly must have had an effect on them. But who knows .. People are so strange.

Christl  Stephanblome is a retired German Gymnasium teacher living in Leverkusen, Germany, near Cologne. She taught in Germany for 35 years and  has traveled the world including several visits to regions of Canada.