After the Flood: Austrian Anti-Immigrant Party Doubles Vote Share

The province of Upper Austria in Austria just held a parliamentary election, the first major election in one of the areas most affected by the migrant crisis since it started this year.

The result fits the near-universal pattern in recent European elections although these results were particularly extreme: the anti-immigrant right-wing Austrian Freedom Party doubled (g) its vote share, from 15.3 to 30.3 percent. It almost caught up with the major center-right party, which dropped 10 points to 36%. The social democrats collapsed to 18.4%. So the far-right anti-immigrant party is now almost twice as powerful as the long-standing traditional social democratic 'mass' party in Austria.

The results of the migrant crisis are becoming clearer and clearer: anti-immigrant/Euroskeptic parties are experiencing massive gains. Existing cordon sanitaire policies, in which all mainstream parties in a European country agree not to form coalitions with the right-wing, is coming under enormous pressure, and will collapse in many EU nations. When your center-right party gets 15% of the vote, it's possible to exclude it. When it gets 25-30% of the vote, siphoning strength from both center-left and center-right, that becomes impossible. When the center-right finally decides wielding total power with a slightly unpleasant partner is better than trying to form awkward coalitions with Greens and Reds, the stage will be set for long-term center-right far-right domination.

What will happen to the Social Democrats? They will fade away into insignificance getting between 10 and 15% of the vote, like the Greens. Their voter base, such as it is, is union members, the working-class, retired bureaucrats and teachers, and immigrants. The working and lower-middle class in Europe are definitely not on board with mass migration, so many will defect to the far-right parties. Retired bureaucrats and teachers no longer have to worry about competition in the job market, but their numbers are dwindling. And the dependence of many social-democratic parties on votes from former generations of immigrants will render them unable to stop the hemorrhaging of anti-immigrant voters.

 

 

Religious Fanatics Threaten Yezidis and Christians in German Shelters

I remember when just a few short months ago, I was scorned — scorned!! — for suggesting that migrants to German would bring their conflicts with them, just like all migrants in history have always done everywhere.

How times have changed.

The Welt am Sonntag publishes a long piece (g) on religious intimidation in German refugee shelters. The culprits are usually Sunni Muslim extremists whose main targets are Christian and Yezidi migrants. Where they're in the majority, they insist all shelter residents follow Sharia law, and insult and threaten those who don't. To intimidate other religions, they chant the same Koran verses IS members recite before beheadings. Christians are not allowed to help prepare food.

In Hemer, Algerian migrants attacked Eritrean Christians with a glass bottle. In Freising, an Iraqi Christian family reported threats from a fanatical Syrian Muslim, who beat his children and threatened to kill the family and drink their blood. They eventually returned to Iraq. Christians from different camps in Germany reported that private security guards do little about these incidents, because the guards themselves are mostly Muslim.

Simon Jacob, leader of the German Council of Oriental Christians, says: "The number of unreported incidents is high. We must anticipate further conflicts that refugees bring from their homelands into Germany. Between Christians and Muslims. Between Shiites and Sunnis. Between Kurds and extremists. Between Yezidis and extremists."

Max Klingberg from the International Society for Human Rights says: "We have to free ourselves of the illusion that all the people coming here are human-rights activists. Among the ones who are already here, there is a non-trivial fraction which, in their religious intensity, are at least at the level of the Muslim Brotherhood. Volunteers have reported aggression rising the level of threats of beheading by Sunnis against Shiites, but the ones hit hardest are Christians and Yezidis. The chance of a Christian convert who doesn't hide his or her faith being attacked or subjected to organized harassment is almost 100 percent."

Two questions:

First, why is Germany allowing tens of thousands of violent religious fanatics into its territory?

Second, once these fanatics reveal themselves by illegal threats and violence, why aren't they immediately being deported?

If German politicians think only xenophobes want answers to these questions, they are mistaken. And they'd better come up with some convincing answers soon.

This is one reason why I think there's a 20% chance Merkel will lose her job before the end of 2015. Even her closest party colleagues and friends have made it clear the decision to open Germany's borders was hers and hers alone. She owns this crisis. She still has an enormous amount of good will buffering her, but she's burning through it faster than a spaceship re-entering earth atmosphere.

A Refugee’s Story: Andrew H. Speaks

German newspapers have graciously conferred refugee status in every foreigner here, so I would like to publish the story of Andrew H., whose story stands for so many.

Andrew H. in his state-subsidized apartment reading one of his favorite books"My name is Andrew H. I'd rather not give you my last name or where I live, except to say it's near the Rhine river. 

I arrived in Germany 10 years ago with nothing but two suitcases and a few college degrees. I was fleeing my home country. Perhaps you've heard of it – it's called the United States of America. A backward and foolish leader had just taken power. He promptly plunged the country into several different wars at once. He ran a huge budget deficit, and appointed corrupt cronies to important government ministries. He was finally removed from office in 2008, but just as I thought it might be safe to return, a massive financial crisis enveloped the country, so I decided to stay.

The trip over was harrowing. I had to pay a shady outfit called "Air France" a small fortune for a tiny, cramped place among hundreds of other people. To add insult to injury, the in-flight 'entertainment' was Police Academy 3. I kept looking out the window in terror, wondering whether we would end up on the bottom of the Atlantic, like so many other Air France flights.

At first, Germans were welcoming. I found a job at a college, but it was only a temporary position, which needed to be renewed every 6 months. It took a long time getting used to the local customs and conditions. Attractive young female policewomen, seasons, crappy television, front-page tabloid tits, fantastic public transportation, the baffling omnipresence of kale, legal drinking in public, the constant grumbling and bitching — all these things were new to me.

I found out that Germans had many prejudices about my people. They thought we Americans were loud, fat, arrogant culture-free boors who knew nothing about the rest of the world. They kept asking me why the rulers of my country were so violent and paranoid. People would call out: "Hey Ami, where's your SUV?" or "You can take your Big Mäc and shove it up your big fat white ass, Ami!" That really hurt. They were also concerned about the effect Americans would have on the job market. Time and again, they asked me: "So, you're an American, eh? Did you come here to give us jobs?" 

I soon realized I would need to learn German. I was kind of ambivalent. Not speaking German insulated me from the stupid things people said and wrote in my new homeland, significantly improving my mental health. Yet I knew that I needed to learn the language to advance my career. I won't lie to you — it was hard learning German. But eventually I managed to scrape together enough German to get by. I found out that the natives here can't even begin to pronounce my first name correctly, and my last name actually means something not very flattering in their language.

I guess you could say I've fit in, sort of. There are still many things I miss about my homeland: Twinkies, twinks, 64-ounce sodas, random gun violence, Hummers, American Gladiators, chocolate-covered bacon, BaconBits, and bacon-flavored mayonnaise, just to name a few. But I've found lots of new things to like about Germany, including Sex-Kino 'Wichskabine', Schlager festivals, Heino, Sido, and Kotzbecken. All in all, it's been a rough transition, but I feel I've learned a lot as a human being."

Solving the Demographic Crisis the Wrong Way

Some argue that the current influx of a million refugees a year is a blessing for Germany because it will solve Germany's demographic crisis: low birth rate equals not enough young workers to support retiring oldsters.

Germany indeed does have a bit of an age imbalance, although views differ on how problematic that is. Germany has tried to increase the birth rates of ethnic Germans, without much luck.

So immigration will have to be the answer. Now you have a choice. You could either:

1.    Open your borders during one summer and permit an influx of 1 million random strangers from faraway lands with wildly differing education levels, chosen according to the principle of whoever can travel and bribe a smuggler gets in, everyone else is out of luck;

or

2.    Adopt a policy of allowing legal, regulated, controlled immigration of 100,000 young people per year, priority to those with language skills and education and a proven track record of integrating well into different cultures (hint: Chinese, Vietnamese, Indians, Koreans), while screening out security risks. Once the demographic imbalance is corrected, reduce the numbers.

Which approach seems more likely to succeed?

German Word of the Week: Jubelperser

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On June 2, 1967, the Shah of Iran and his wife Farah paid a state visit to Berlin, West Germany. Wherever he went, there were demonstrations by Berliners against the hospitality being shown to the dashing autocrat. To shield him from these demonstrators, the Iranian regime arranged for a group of about 150 Iranians to accompany the Shah and cheer him on.

Since the people were Persian, and since they cheered and celebrated (jubeln in German) the Shah, they were called the Jubelperser (g) "Cheering-Persians". It's pronounced roughly YOU-bull-pair-zer. But these Jubelperser had a sinister side as well — some of them were members of the SAVAK secret police.

As the protests came to a head during the Shah's visit to the Berlin opera house, the Jubelperser took a break from cheering, whipped out clubs, sticks, and batons, and began beating nearby demonstrators. German police, who despised the student demonstrators, stood by and watched without doing a thing except possibly smirking.

Later that day, when the Berlin police violently dispersed the demonstrators, policeman Karl-Heinz Kurras (g) for reasons that remain unclear to this day, pulled out his gun and shot student demonstrator Benno Ohnesorg (g) to death. Kurras was never convicted of a crime for the shooting. In 2009 it was revealed that he had been an unofficial collaborator with the Stasi. The death of Ohnesorg on June 2, 1967 greatly accelerated the radicalization of parts of the German student movement — in fact, one terrorist group that operated during the 1970s was called the "June 2nd Movement".

Jubelperser has entered the German vocabulary to describe paid professional fans, or generally any crowd which displays unnatural or exaggerated enthusiasm. There doesn't have to be something a bit menacing about their display, but if there is, the term fits even better. Example of use in a sentence: "When a flightsuit-clad Angela Merkel ran awkwardly onstage to the sound of 'Rock You Like a Hurricane', the audience, mainly members of the Youth Wing of the Christian Democrat Party, dutifully cheered like Jubelperser."

Germany is Powerless to Deport Migrants, Everyone Who Arrives Gets to Stay

When skeptics grumble in comments to German newspapers that 'nobody will ever get deported once they reach Germany', they are right.

This fact is important, since it means that the German state is unlikely to ever successfully deport any significant number of the migrants who are coming in now. So all of those Pakistanis, Afghans, Bangladeshis, Moldovans, Moroccans, etc. who are mixing in with the Syrians and riding the coattails of the current immigration wave will be able to stay for years on end, receiving government welfare and diverting scarce resources from actual Syrian war refugees. They will be permitted to do this even though they have no legal grounds for asylum. 

You would think this fact would be vital to understanding what's really at stake in the German immigration debate, and you'd be right. Nevertheless, mainstream German newspapers ignore it, so it took the Washington Post to explain why the German legal system fails here. (You may notice that the Washington Post refrains from using the misleading term 'refugees' for people who aren't.)

Even in the United States, deportation cases of undocumented migrants can linger for years. But because the migrants coming to Europe in dramatic waves are largely applying for legal asylum, they are benefiting from a catalogue of appeals and pseudo-statuses including a precarious right to remain that is simply called “toleration.” If they can stall long enough, German codes potentially allow them to beat the system and win permanent residency. And even when deportation orders come through, there are ingenious ways around them.

Hassan was one of the unlucky ones…. [L]ike most of the hopeful refugees arriving here, he first entered Europe in a different country. In his case, it was Bulgaria, a no man’s land for migrants where he was slapped in jail. Under E.U. law, Germany does not have to listen to his claim. It can just send him back.

It tried to do just that on the cold December morning last year when police hauled him to Frankfurt Airport.

But once aboard a flight, Hassan managed to block his deportation. German policies restrict the use of force during expulsions, and some deportees have taken to kicking and screaming inside plane cabins to thwart take-off. Hassan said he merely informed the crew that he was leaving involuntarily. The result: Citing a possible safety risk, the pilot allowed him to disembark. With no grounds to detain Hassan further under German law, frustrated authorities released him.

Back in Kassel, his lawyer found him a shield against another deportation attempt: Church asylum. Hassan packed up and moved into a welcoming Catholic church…. If he can avoid deportation for four more months, a loophole in the asylum law would compel the German government to hear the merits of his case. Because the Germans — citing logistical and safety issues — are generally not deporting Somalis to their home country, he has a good chance of being allowed to stay.

Germany last year managed to return only 4,700 of the 35,000 migrants who were told to go back to those nations — in part because deportations are difficult. Commercial and charter flights can be expensive. Also, many of the migrants coming now don’t have passports or travel papers, making expulsion a bureaucratic and logistical mess.

The new law, however, would not close the important loophole being used here by Hassan and others to avoid deportation to transit countries. If an asylum seeker can manage to fend off deportation for six to 18 months, the German government has no choice but to reopen their case.

Germany has already sent back thousands of rejected asylum claimants from Balkan countries. But for many rejected asylum seekers, a final ruling can, or often does, take years. If they can stretch out their cases for up to six years, a law here allows many to apply for permanent status — suggesting that Germany may be forced to absorb the majority of those seeking asylum.

“Deportation is always difficult, but maybe you have to remove 100,000 to help the other 600,000 find a way to stay,” said Demetrios G. Papademetriou, president emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank. “Europe needs to develop a backbone, to say that on principle, if you are an unauthorized immigrant, an economic migrant, we are going to identify you and send you back.”

The upshot: You can manipulate German law to gain permanent residency and even citizenship long after your unfounded claim to asylum is rejected. Only the very foolish or short-sighted ever get deported against their will. The German state simply lacks the will to enforce its own immigration laws. Even if those laws actually do change and become harsher, there's no guarantee they'll survive court scrutiny.

So under current trends, at least 90% of the million migrants due to arrive this year alone are going to be able to find some way to stay in Germany for the rest of their lives. And many will earn the right to bring 3-4 family members with them.

How to Handle Migrants on the Housing Market

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[source]

In Germany, if your initial paperwork is approved and you are granted refugee status (and in certain other circumstances), you are eligible to move into an apartment that you find and rent yourself. The state gives you a voucher for the rental costs, but it's small. This means, in the coming months, hundreds of thousands of migrants will flood into the market for low-income housing in Germany. There is already a shortage of affordable housing so severe that many German cities have imposed rent controls.

And no, even if the refugees are placed in rural East Germany, they will not stay there. They will all flood into major population centers where they already have relatives and there is an existing Arabic-speaking community. The federal government can't stop this flight into the cities. The German state will never be willing to take the coercive measures necessary to actually force 400 Syrians located in a small East German town where there are no jobs and the locals distrust them. 

So all those migrants are going to flock to Berlin, Dortmund, Cologne, Bremen, Hamburg, etc. In many of these cities, there are already serious shortages of affordable housing. And now come foreign newcomers without jobs who don't speak any German to compete with German citizens for an affordable, decent place to live. And the foreigners, unlike the Germans, are clutching a piece of paper from the government that gives them free rent.

I can see the interviews now: Cindy, A German (or if you prefer Cansu, a long-settled Turkish-German) discount-store cashier, holding her 2 children, says: "I know it was good to take the refugees in and I don't blame them, but what about us German citizens who are already here and are working hard and paying our taxes? Where are our free rent checks? Where are our decent, affordable apartments?"

Of course, Green-party voting journalists will mock Cindy for implicitly comparing her hardship with those fleeing war. (They'll remain uncomfortably silent about Cansu.). Other journalists will produce long, statistics-laden pieces about why the affordable housing crisis really isn't quite as dramatic as you might think. The Bild tabloid will actually print the interview with both Cindy and Cansu, and will be attacked for the 455,003th time for "irresponsibly" inciting xenophobia.

And many working- and lower-middle class Germans will take a fresh look at anti-immigrant political parties.

To ignore this obvious crisis barreling down the road toward us would require a level of foolishness and shortsightedness that nobody expected to see from Germany. Until this summer.

So the Andrew Hammel Tough-But-Fair Think-Tank puts forward this White Paper:

  1. Social and political scientists accept that government benefits which are seen as only going to the poor or foreigners quickly become unpopular and get cancelled. This is a universal constant of human nature that cannot be changed, and any policy which ignores it is doomed. 
  2. Germany's going to need for the migrants alone 500,000 new affordable apartments not in rural East Germany, but in the cities where all the migrants will quickly move to.
  3. Therefore, the German Interior Ministry should announce the 50/50 plan: an ambitious new subsidized housing plan that will build or refurbish one new decent, rent-controlled apartment for low-income Germans for every new apartment built for migrants.
  4. The German Interior Ministry should announce this program right now, not after months of negative press coverage and mounting rage. Also, the federal government will announce that it will provide all the money, so there's no squabbles about which level of government will have to pay.
  5. This ambitious new housing program will be paid for by canceling existing tax cuts and raising the top marginal income tax on the rich by 3%. Also, a 30% inheritance tax on estates over €1 million. In Germany, about €250 billion (g) is passed generation to generation every year in Germany. Little Carlo-Alexander can give up €800 of his monthly €4000 trust-fund allowance to help desperate refugees, can't he?

At this point, my plan looks like a crazy dream. But I wouldn't be surprised to see something like it in, say, mid-2016.

Another Prediction Realized: The Upper Limit

So much has been happening that it seems impossible it was less than three weeks ago that I inadvertently sketched the future of German migration policy.

Me, August 31: In consultation with other EU member states, Germany will set an annual upper limit on the number of humanitarian migrants, including refugees, which it will harbor. I'd suggest something like 250,000 per year. A million refugees a year is not sustainable for Germany.

German Interior Minister (for now, calls for him to resign are getting louder) Thomas de Maiziere, as summarized (g) by the German channel RTL: "Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has made a controversial proposal in light of the continuing stream of refugees. In an interview with 'Der Spiegel' he demanded EU quotas. In other words, an upper limit for the acceptance of refugees. If the limit is reached, the Minister said, the refugee should be sent back to their country of origin, if it is safe there."

See, this is why I don't mind when people inaccurately call me a right-wing populist. In this crisis of uncontrolled mass migration, what's a "right-wing populist" idea on Monday is often the conventional wisdom by Friday.