Refugees’ Crisis: Germany’s generosity stretched


Last Updated on November 5, 2017 by Memorila

— Pressure is mounting on Germany and other nations to scale back their generous policies welcoming refugees, with opponents including some of the region’s most influential leaders arguing that the promise of aid is enticing more and more asylum seekers to make a break for Western Europe.

There was no sign Monday that the crisis was easing, with Britain and France — two nations criticized for not doing enough — pledging to take in tens of thousands of asylum seekers. But Germany — the nation taking in the lion’s share, or an estimated 800,000 asylum seekers by year’s end — continued to lead the way, pledging to hire 3,000 more police officers and throw $6.7 billion more toward the crisis, including emergency housing for 150,000 people.

Yet even as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her nation should be “proud” of its response, other European leaders and domestic critics blamed Germany, as well as similarly generous nations like Sweden, for offering benefits so lucrative that they had become an incentive for asylum seekers to risk their lives over land and sea.

The sniping came as the pace of arrivals accelerated on Monday. In Greece, the refugees’ first port of call, authorities requested emergency E.U. assistance as islands received asylum seekers faster than they could be ferried to the mainland. Greece’s coast guard said it had rescued more than 2,000 asylum seekers in the Mediterranean Sea since Friday. And hundreds of migrants scuffled with Hungarian authorities on the border with Serbia before pushing into the country on foot.

Germany responded to the criticism Monday by announcing a reduction in cash handouts for asylum seekers during their initial months of processing, instead saying it would offer them more food stamps and in-kind aid. Berlin also said it would push to have western Balkan countries like Kosovo declared “safe” in a bid to weed out the many thousands of migrants now claiming asylum from countries not currently at war.

 

The German maneuvers suggested the complex nature of Europe’s migrant crisis, in which desperate Syrians and Iraqis are searching for sanctuary in the wealthy countries of Europe’s core along with a host of economic migrants pouring in from countries as far flung as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

“We want to reduce the number of pull factors, and I think it’s a big step forward that we have consensus in our government to reduce the monetary benefits for those seeking asylum,” said Stephan Mayer, a German national lawmaker and home affairs spokesman for the Christian Social Union, part of Merkel’s ruling coalition. Referring to criticisms by European leaders including Britain’s David Cameron and Hungary’s Viktor Orban, he said, “I can’t say that Orban or Cameron are completely wrong.”

In the crowded refugee centers across this nation of 81 million, asylum seekers have conceded that they had come to Germany because it is doing more to help than other nations in the region.

 

Mohammed Mazher Alkilany, 28, a former PR consultant for the Damascus Tourism Board who is living in a temporary shelter in east Berlin, said his family of three is living on 233 euros a month provided by the government — a sum he described as too little to cover the cost of warm clothes and blankets for the coming winter.

But they are also living in free temporary housing in a building outfitted with a playground and rooms with shared kitchens, bathrooms and washing machines. He insisted, though, that he did not come to Germany simply for its generous benefits.

“I came here because Germany is safe; there is no war,” he said. “Germany is the best in Europe. France is no good, you cannot get language classes there, but in Germany you can learn the language for free.” Although Sweden is offering similar aid, he said it was “too far away, it is very cold and it is always night there.”

A few European nations have been willing to set up operations to legally and safely bring, for example, Syrian refugees directly from bordering nations like Turkey and Lebanon. But they have put strict limits on numbers, with all 28 E.U. nations offering just over 53,000 such spots since 2013, according to U.N. figures. That is a drop in the ocean compared to the more than 4 million Syrian refugees.

 

 


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