Refugees and wars, a view from Germany

This video says about itself:

18 September 2015

People in Belgium welcome refugees! Join the movement and come to Brussels on 27 September for a solidarity march with refugees. Share this video and invite your friends to the march.

Marche citoyenne/solidariteitsmars REFUGEES WELCOME, 27 September, 14.00, Bruxelles/Brussel, Gare du Nord/Noordstation

More info in French/Dutch/English: here.

By Victor Grossman in Berlin, Germany:

Germany: The refugee crisis hasn’t just ’emerged from nowhere’

Saturday 19th September 2015

“A MILLION refugees in Germany this year,” predicted Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. But Angela Merkel had announced that all were welcome — winning her a reputation as the most humane leader in all Europe.

But suddenly the line changed. German crossing points from Austria were shut down. Then Austria closed its entry points from Hungary, while Hungary, by far the most brutal, blocked its entry points from Serbia with razor wire and, when it felt necessary, with batons, tear gas and multiple arrests.

Now Serbia has followed suit, Croatia felt forced to do the same, and those Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and other refuge-seekers who survived dangerous crossings through ever stormier seas are caught in a series of traps. Their loud chants of “Germany, Germany” and joyful waving of Merkel portraits have largely vanished.

Is it fair to charge her with hypocrisy? It may have been impossible for her to foresee how many would move northward, singling out Germany as a desired goal.

Who could have predicted the jammed railway stations, disastrous, improvised shelters or videos of crying children — or drowned ones?

She must also have been aware that the truly amazing, heart-warming welcome by over half the German population might, under the weight of numbers, go into reverse, providing new strength to the ever-menacing xenophobes, Islamophobes and other far-right racists.

Some cynics whisper that Merkel’s mercy was really motivated by hopes that a large increase in population, especially by young people of working age, would not only counteract the demographic threat of a Germany with ever fewer babies but also build up a “reserve army” of eager workers, useful in counteracting fights for wage increases by a workforce already hit hard by a growing number of temporary, part-time, low-paid jobs, always harder to organise and easier to exploit.

But her policy reversal was also based on the refusal of the European Union to take in more than 120,000 of the 1,000,000 expected in Germany alone.

Few member countries have accepted even modest quotas. Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and the Baltic countries refuse to take in even a handful.

The quarrel is threatening the very basis of the European Union, especially one of its key achievements — visa-free borders, unhindered travel and migration from Estonia to Malta, from the North Cape to the Rock of Gibraltar.

Of course it must be admitted that the shaky economies of many EU members are hardly able to cope with great influxes, nor has there been any clamour on the part of the refugees to settle in Poland or Portugal.

Yes, the huge numbers were perhaps unexpected and pressure from Merkel’s sister party, the Christian Social Union, in Bavaria has grown increasingly anti-immigrant.

But she, too, like most of the media, used humane cliches but carefully avoided the causes of this unsettling chaos.

One long-lasting cause is the treatment of poorer countries. Most African immigrants — aside from Eritrea, a different story — are from Nigeria, about which Ghent scholar Olubayo Oluduro comments: “With over 50 years of oil exploitation, vast stretches have poor water quality; there is pollution, disruption and degradation of farmlands and fishing ports, destruction of wildlife and biodiversity, loss of fertile soil. Moreover, there has been no provision of adequate compensation or a planned mitigation policy for the areas affected… The response … in the form of protest and campaigns against the activities of the multinational oil companies, has led and continues to lead to violations of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in the form of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions and unlawful restrictions on their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. These restrictions are imposed by security agents, mostly with the complicit support” of oil multinational companies.

Is it surprising that many are ready to risk their lives in the Mediterranean rather than endure a lifelong struggle for bare survival in filthy slums?

But behind all the recent human surges are wars started or supported by the Western democracies.

Large numbers have fled from Iraq and Afghanistan, both thrown into deathly turmoil by illegal foreign invasions. We can soon expect similar large numbers from Yemen.

In Syria, Germany and other major powers have provided all sides with weapons for years, even poison gas, while repeatedly rejecting peace negotiations unless Assad is eliminated, an impossible condition for any true efforts.

The worst killer in the region, Isis, has continually exported oil via that friendly Western ally Turkey, now carrying out a merciless bombing campaign against left-wing Kurdish groups, far and away the most effective force in fighting Isis.

The main sources of Isis weapons, it is clear, have been Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, close US allies, who also use them to fight Saudi Arabia’s chosen new foes, the Houthis, destroying much of Yemen in the process.

They, in turn, were supplied for years by just those Western countries which complain most loudly about Isis cruelty.

While the US is the main supplier, Germany has also sold them arms worth billions. In February and March it sold huge amounts of ammunition and spare parts for tanks and ground-to-air missile equipment.

In April came the OK for 100 drones, radio equipment and tank replacement parts. Rifles dropped by Saudi planes over Aden to fight the Houthis were products of the famous firm Heckler & Koch, which is ably represented in the Bundestag by Volker Kauder, a recipient of its constant election contributions, and who, aside from being an ardent Christian evangelist and Islam-hater, is a main supporter of arms sales, especially from Heckler & Koch, as well as head of Merkel’s party caucus in the Bundestag since 2005, a top position.

Merkel’s recent sudden decision to stop weapons sales to the Saudis is a surprising, welcome reversal of the blood-stained trade deals, till now blushingly approved by Social Democratic Vice-Chancellor Gabriel.

It could be a result of growing world alarm at the terrifying destruction in Yemen — and fear of huge new waves of refugees when Yemeni ports are reopened.

But we must be generous and congratulate Merkel on the decision — if it is genuine and if it holds against opponents, transatlantic and within her own party.

It is clear that humane treatment is a must in accepting the refugees, while the only way to stop more such waves is to end the wars and the arms sales.

This has been the consistent message of Die Linke party in Germany. It is also the position of the new head of Britain’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. We may hope that his clear, sharp, evidently popular demands will have some long-range effect on Germany’s Social Democrats, who have thus far failed to rejoice at his success — indeed, in the case of one leader, have denounced him.

But voices and actions like Corbyn’s are bitterly needed in an increasingly tense continent.

19 thoughts on “Refugees and wars, a view from Germany

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  3. Tuesday 22nd September 2015

    posted by Zoe Streatfield in Britain

    ANTI-RACISM activists slammed the government’s “shameful” and “inhumane” response to the refugee crisis at a mass rally in London last night.

    Stand Up to Racism organiser Sabby Dhalu said that the small number of refugees David Cameron is willing to accept was a “gross dereliction of duty.”

    She called on the British government and EU countries to accept more refugees, saying that the situation “would be easily manageable if these countries would adopt a more humanitarian approach.”

    Shadow foreign minister Catherine West told crowds that the government’s “inadequate response” to the escalating crisis was “shameful.”

    Ms West called on Britain not to turn its back and ignore the biggest migration of refugees since the second world war.

    She said that Britain had “a proud history of helping people fleeing persecution and we stand together tonight to call for much more to be done.”

    Unite Against Fascism’s Weyman Bennett accused David Cameron of dehumanising refugees and refusing to fulfil any “basic tenets of humanity.”

    Mr Bennett, who visited the refugee camps in Calais and distributed aid, called for action to save the refugees.

    Meanwhile Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond yesterday to tell him that Scotland was “willing and able” to take more refugees.

    She said the nation would take a “proportionate” 2,000 of Britain’s pledged 20,000 quota ahead of tomorrow’s EU summit on the refugee crisis.


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