Yesterday, under the motto “#Seebrücke” (sea-bridge), protests (g) occurred yesterday in various German cities to support the operation of NGO rescue ships in the Mediterranean.
As anyone will tell you, the point of these protests was to support the humanitarian rescue of people in emergencies in the middle of the sea. After all, who could possibly oppose rescuing people in an emergency? Do you want people to drown?
Here we see a protester with a sign featuring the #Seebrücke slogan:
This man is appealing to your conscience as a human being. All he wants is for people in need to be rescued. Really, it’s so simple, people. How can anyone opp– wait, what’s that on his sign?
“No nations, no cry”?
So he also opposes the existence of…countries. Hmm, perhaps there’s a bit more to these protests than meets the eye.
There’s a strain of pragmatism in American political discourse summed up by the phrase “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” The underlying idea is simple: If following some abstract constitutional principle in a particular situation would cause massive problems, then the principle should be ignored or watered-down in that case. This doesn’t mean the principle is abandoned; it’s just not implemented in one particular situation because the consequences could be destabilizing or dangerous.
This is the critical insight John Dalhuisen mentions in his interview, which I quoted yesterday. Throughout 2015 and long after — and still today — human-rights activists are insisting on an extreme reading of asylum and immigration law which would, in effect, result in open borders. His thought experiment is simple: Imagine what the world would look like if every demand made by groups such as Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders (“EU: Your Fences Kill. Provide Safe and Legal Passage“) had been met by European governments.
Word would quickly spread that Europe had decided not to turn anyone away, and the result would have been an influx of millions of migrants from Africa and the Middle East. In the three years since 2015, 5 million, 10 million, perhaps 15 million people would have emigrated to Europe. This is no exaggeration; see the video above.
If you ask activists whether this would be good for Europe, or for the countries which the migrants left — and I have asked them this — they are usually surprised by the question. Because they have never considered the real-world consequences of their positions. They simply insist on a de facto open borders policy because they believe that human-rights treaties, or European “principles”, require this policy. Political backlash? Not their problem. Conflicts over scarce housing and jobs? Not their problem. Exploding welfare budgets? Not their problem. Culture clash? Not their problem. The treaties (or “humanity”, or “European principles”) demand it, and therefore it must happen. End of discussion. Europe can find some way to deal with all these new arrivals. That’s not our problem. We’re activists, not politicians.
This approach is short-sighted and dangerous, as Dalhuisen points out. I would add: childish. Yes, human rights are important, and activists play a vital and necessary role in enforcing them, etc. But most questions of human rights have few broad policy implications: whether a country does or does not execute criminals is not an issue of national survival. Whether press freedom laws allow hate speech is not an issue of national survival. Whether accused criminals are kept in custody for years pending trial is not an issue of national survival. In these cases, arguments based on pure principle are appropriate, necessary, even vital.
But when activists enter the realm of immigration, they are entering an area with huge policy implications, including national survival. Germany would not cease to exist if 7 million Africans entered in any given year, using the “safe and legal” migration routes activists demand. Maybe. But even if it did, it would be a Germany nobody would recognize. And by the time the last of the 7 million arrived, there is not a single chance the EU would still exist. The European Convention on Human Rights, if it still existed, would have been gutted beyond recognition.
For human-rights activists to ignore the implications of their demands on immigration is irresponsible, perhaps even inexcusable. If they insist that the only permissible interpretation of refugee laws and treaties is “suicide pact”, Europeans will soon teach them that they’re not interested in sacrificing themselves on the altar of moral purity. In fact, they’re sending this message right now.
Just a year ago, John Dalhuisen was the director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia division, and was saying things like this about the deal to stop illegal migration into Europe from Turkey:
Today marks a dark day in the history of refugee protection: one in which Europe’s leaders attempted to buy themselves out of their international obligations, heedless of the cost in human misery,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe.
“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these crimes…. You will see us in court.”
But shortly after issuing these rhetorical broadsides, Dalhuisen joined the very organization that created the Turkey deal, the European Stability Initiative. And today, an interview with him appeared in German in the FAZ in which he explains why he left Amnesty.
Although he takes pains to stress his former colleagues are admirable, hard-working people whose hearts are in the right place, he faults them for rigidly adhering to a no-compromises, maximalist rhetoric about human rights and migration which leaves no room for compromise and risks a massive political backlash (my translation):
It was the migration debate which spurred Dalhuisen to reflect on the question of whether the human-rights movement had grasped the scale of the challenge it faced — and whether Amnesty was still the right place for him. “Many Europeans have been unnerved by the arrival of a large number of migrants in the past years. Nobody should ignore this fundamental fact. Yet the human-rights movement tends to do just that.”…
Dalhuisen…believes that Amnesty and Western liberals share a risky conviction of the irreversibility of human-rights achievements. He is surprised by the untroubled self-confidence with which many supporters of open borders — and these include Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and Doctors without Borders, whose demands would create de facto open borders — take the right to asylum for granted, as if it were somehow immune from any interference by political forces. They seem to treat the Geneva Convention on Refugees or the asylum articles of European constitutions as written in stone, a sort of law of nature. But this is simply not the case. The law of gravity cannot be abolished, but the Geneva Convention can, and so can the asylum rights guaranteed by national constitutions. Humans can destroy what they once created….
Dalhuisen’s complaints can be illustrated by a thought experiment: Imagine what Europe’s parliaments would look like today if European politicians had given in to all the demands of human-rights organizations during the past three years. If Macedonia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and other states had built no fences. If the EU had not signed the agreement with Turkey. If “safe and legal migration routes” had been created, as demanded by Doctors Without Borders, among other groups. If the stream of more than one million people per year not only continued, but perhaps even increased. If European reality had become a sort of endless loop of summer 2015. How would the elections have gone in France, Germany, or Italy?
“In that situation,” Dalhuisen suggests, “established parties who could not offer any solution to control immigration would have been swept away by the first party which could.”…
“It is a…political reality, that citizens in Europe want to see borders brought under control, and if necessary will elect parties which promise to meet this demand. The question, as a human-right activist, is whether I accept this reality and attempt, under these circumstances, to achieve the best possible conditions for protecting refugees — in the hope that some political actors will adopt these policies? Or do I insist on my perfect solution, without any concessions?” Dalhuisen thinks the path of compromise is correct because, in contrast to maximum demands, it offers a possibility of success. But established human-rights groups reject this view. They want to see the EU-Turkey agreement abolished, immediately. But what would happen after that? “Many human-rights activists tend to overlook the suffering imposed on the people they are especially interested in protecting by their own unwillingness to compromise.”…
He no longer wants to be a part [of the mainstream human-rights movement], because he did not join the human-rights movement to take comfort in the purity of his ideals, but rather to implement as many of them as possible. “Amnesty International and the human-rights movement have done an enormous amount of good in general. But if they don’t adapt to the challenges of our time, they will sink into obscurity, while human-rights treaties which took decades to achieve will be swept away.”
If large majorities of voters want X to happen, but lawyers and activists claim that X is prohibited under existing laws, then voters will change the laws to get X. That’s a feature, not a bug, of how democracy works. Kudos to Dalhuisen for making these arguments publicly. Presumably he will soon publish something in English.
White people become significantly less likely to support welfare programs when told that black people might benefit from them.
That’s a crucial conclusion from a newly released study by Berkeley sociologist Rachel Wetts and her Stanford colleague Robb Willer in the journal Social Forces. The authors conducted two different experiments to see how white Americans’ attitudes toward nonwhite people affect their views on welfare spending. Both experiments found that showing white Americans data suggesting that white privilege is diminishing — that the US is becoming majority nonwhite, or that the gap between white and black/Latino incomes is closing — led them to express more opposition to welfare spending.
Wetts and Willer are hardly the first scholars to argue that racial animus is a powerful factor motivating opposition to social spending and redistribution in the US. Jill Quadagno’s The Color of Welfarein 1994 and Martin Gilens’s Why Americans Hate Welfare in 1999 credited racial factors — in particular, stereotypes of black people as lazy and overly dependent on government aid — with substantially reducing support for welfare spending since the war on poverty began in the 1960s.
This study was carried out in the U.S., but studies from other developed countries reach similar conclusions (pdf).
When I point out that increased ethnic diversity saps support for generous welfare provisions, people often respond with an is/ought conflation. They suppose I’m actually saying it’s good that people are less likely to favor welfare if it goes to others who are ethnically distinct from them. Or, on a slightly more sophisticated level, they suggest that only conservatives believe that this effect exists, and they abuse it to construct a “false choice” between ethnic diversity and generous social welfare provisions.
No, this is descriptive, not prescriptive. I think it’s regrettable, in the abstract sense, that many people oppose welfare when you tell them it will help someone who doesn’t look like them. I would now appreciate it if you would congratulate me on my tolerance and open-mindedness.
However, in addition to being pure and noble of spirit, I’m a pragmatist, so I think abstract moral judgments about the attitudes of people I’ll never meet are a waste of time. People are the way they are, and policy should be designed to work with people as they are right now, not people as they should be after a beautiful revolution in mass consciousness.
The choice between generous welfare states and increased ethnic diversity is pretty real. There have already been cutbacks in welfare spending in Germany attached to more stringent supervision and work requirements. One reason is likely that the largest group of immigrants to Germany, people of Turkish descent, receive welfare at higher rates than native-born ethnic Germans — and this effect continues into subsequent generations (pdf). Even among Germans, who are quite tolerant in international comparison, people prefer government welfare to go to people who look like them. This is human nature.
I predict the recent spike in migration from 2015 is going to greatly accelerate this trend in Germany. And my predictions have a way of coming true.
Would you be delighted if disputes in a country thousands of miles away led to a wave of arson attacks and violence in you country?
That’s what is happening in Germany right now. There are something like 600-800,000 persons of Kurdish descent living in Germany right now, the majority of whom hail from Turkey. They entered Germany gradually, over years, as a result of chain migration, without anyone ever making a conscious decision to make this happen, or, for that matter, justifying it to the German people.
As most Germans are dimly aware, Kurds in Turkey have been staging an armed separatist insurrection for decades now. The main force behind this revolt is the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), founded by Abdullah Ocalan and a few others in the late 1970s. It started out as a Communist group, but has changed its orientation to be somewhat more accepting of Islam, to try to attract more Islamic members. Its ideology is now a murky mix of socialism and elements of Islam, held together by Kurdish nationalism.
The Turkish government has responded to the PKK with repression, some of which involves human-rights abuses. The PKK has responded with bombing attacks which have, on occasion, cost many civilian lives. Human-rights groups regularly condemn both the Turkish government and PKK for abuses and atrocities. The PKK has been declared a terrorist group by the European Union, and displaying its flag or propaganda is illegal in Germany.
If you’re interested, here are the main propaganda points for both sides, as distilled from dozens of conversations and written accounts I’ve heard or read over the years:
Kurds say they want only autonomy, not to destroy Turkey. Turkey has repressed their language, culture, and legitimate national aspirations brutally for decades. The PKK is the most legitimate and active Kurdish nationalist group, and it primarily targets Turkish and government military officials. The declaration of the PKK as a terrorist group was a political result of Turkey’s strategic importance to Europe as a trading partner and NATO member. Turkey has used illegal and brutal tactics to suppress Kurdish groups, and has committed numerous human-rights abuses.
Turks, on the other hand, condemn the PKK as a straight-out terrorist organization, similar to the separatist Basque ETA in Spain. The Turkish state has made many concessions to legitimate Kurdish interests, but will not tolerate extreme demands, just as Spain and France do not tolerate separatist agitation. The PKK is waging a guerrilla war and intentionally mixes with the civilian population to generate civilian victims and sympathy. The PKK has carried out numerous bombing atrocities which have intentionally targeted civilians. Therefore, its designation as a terrorist group is well-earned. Talk to any Turk or Kurd (except for cosmopolitan elites), and you will hear these arguments repeated ad infinitum. Gather nationalist Turks and Kurds in one place, and conflict will inevitably break out.
Right now, the Turkish government is prosecuting a military campaign in the city of Afrin, which has inflamed Kurdish passions. So what have Kurds done? Well, many of them have staged more-or-less peaceful demonstrations to protest this action. I say more-or-less because once Kurds begin protesting, it is only a matter of time before gatherings of nationalist Turks appear to start a fight, in which the Kurdish protesters are eager participants. As Deutsche Welle reports:
In a sign of how quickly things can escalate, Kurdish protesters demonstrating at Hanover’s airport on Monday clashed with Turkish passengers exiting their flight. Separately on Monday, unknown assailants vandalized two mosques run by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), Germany’s largest Islamic umbrella group with over 900 mosques tied to the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religion, or Diyanet.
The incidents come as Der Spiegel reported that some Turkish mosques and imams in Germany invoked prayers for the success of the Turkish military against the “terrorists” in Afrin. The prayers were the same as those read at some 90,000 mosques in Turkey.
Because pro-Kurdish demonstrations routinely generate mass brawls at the edges, German taxpayers must pony up millions of Euros in police overtime, not to mention interpreters for the ensuing court proceedings. Many demonstrations are also broken up by police for displaying PKK flags or propaganda.
And then there are the illegal actions. There have been a wave of mosque bombings in Germany in the last few days — almost universally of mosques which are partially funded by the Turkish government and generally preach a pro-Ankara line. Kurdish militants within Germany are claiming credit for many of these attacks, and doing so by the pretty convincing method of posting videos of themselves actually conducting the arson attacks. One of these videos, purporting to show the bombing of a mosque in Lauffen am Neckar yesterday, can be seen here (not embeddable, for obvious reasons). This website, a German-language portal for Kurdish militants, features dozens of reports and often videos of arson attacks against cars and buildings owned by “Turkish fascists”, conducted by young Kurdish militants in Germany.
A spontaneous, illegal protest at the airport in Düsseldorf yesterday also devolved into a brawl, because Turkish passengers (who knows, perhaps even airport employees) attacked (g) the illegal protesters. The police had to use pepper spray and evacuate parts of the airport. There were injuries.
Here’s a report on spontaneous fights between Kurds and Turks in Stuttgart in January 2018:
There are hundreds of videos like this.
So, are these violent actions and illegal protests helping the Kurdish cause? The answer is a loud, emphatic no. Under every newspaper report, there is a seemingly endless stream of comments from German readers which basically boil down to ‘a plague on both your houses‘. Germans wonder why buildings and cars are burning in Germany, German airports and inner cities are being turned into mini-Thunderdomes, and police and security services are spending tens of millions of Euros — all because of some squabble occurring in a corner of a country thousands of kilometers away. Instead of sympathy for the Kurdish cause, you’re likely to read demands for mass deportations of Kurds — and for that matter, Turks — since they apparently can’t figure how to live alongside one another like civilized people.
Why is this happening in Germany? The answer, of course, is that Germany imported this conflict. Operating in a fit of absent-mindedness, not pursuing any conscious, logical policy, it imported such large numbers of Turks and Kurds that both communities are now massive and self-perpetuating. This guarantees that the Turkish-Kurdish conflict will continue to have considerable knock-on effects in Germany for generations.
You would think Germany might have learned some valuable lessons from this experience, but it seems to catch them by surprise every time.
UPDATE (later that same day): How about a constructive suggestion? Young Kurds, if you feel so strongly about the Turkish military operations in northern Syria, you could go join one of the Kurdish groups fighting there.
That’s what this man did, and he’s not even Kurdish:
Icelandic activist Haukur Hilmarsson was reportedly killed in combat in Afrin, Syria. He was 32 years old.
According to a post from the International Freedom Battalion (IFB), a group of international fighters working alongside the YPG in Syria, this was his second tour of combat in the region. After first being deported from Iraq after trying to enter Rojava, he returned shortly thereafter and distinguished himself in Raqqa, where he rose to the rank of commander. After helping rout the Islamic State from the area, he later joined the fighting against encroaching Turkish forces in northern Syria. It was in Afrin, a Syrian city that has seen heavy casualties lately, where he ultimately fell in combat.
“In death we say he has become immortal,” IFB writes of him. “For we will never forget his struggle, his name, and his example – and we shall never give up his fight.”
If an Icelander can volunteer to fight the good fight, I’m sure a young, healthy German Kurd would be even more valuable. Same culture and language. And the offer isn’t just good for males, since the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units are world-renowned.
What’s more likely to help the Kurdish cause: brawling with random Turks in cold, rainy Dortmund, bombing a mosque in the Neckar valley, or actually taking up arms to bravely and valiantly defend the Kurdish homeland? Or put another way, if a 32-year-old Icelander can die for the glorious cause, what’s stopping you?
Up to three quarters of Germany’s refugees will still be unemployed in five years’ time, according to a government minister, in a stark admission of the challenges the country faces in integrating its huge migrant population.
Aydan Özoğuz, commissioner for immigration, refugees and integration, told the Financial Times that only a quarter to a third of the newcomers would enter the labour market over the next five years, and “for many others we will need up to 10”.
…Initially, the influx of so many working-age, highly-motivated immigrants spurred optimism that they would mitigate Germany’s acute skills shortage and solve the demographic crisis posed by its dangerously low birth rate. Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of carmaker Daimler, said the refugees could lay the foundation for the “next German economic miracle”.
But those hopes have faded as a new realism about the migrants’ lack of qualifications and language skills sinks in. “There has been a shift in perceptions,” Ms Özoğuz told the FT. Many of the first Syrian refugees to arrive in Germany were doctors and engineers, but they were succeeded by “many, many more who lacked skills”.
Or, to put it another way, 'German minister finally abandons airbrushing propaganda'. Anyone with reasonable experience of the world could immediately see, in real time, that most of the 2015 arrivals weren't going integrate into Germany. All you had to do was use common sense and knowledge of the world, two aspects of the human condition which were declared to be verboten in Germany from August 2015 to January 1, 2016.
Those of us who clung to them immediately saw that most of these young males were going to have a hard time integrating, based on the following evidence:
First, most of the new arrivals didn't look very smart or conscientious. Studies show (pdf) that complete strangers can make judgments about someone based only on a photograph with better-than-random accuracy. And of course, we do this all the time, every day, for very good reasons. If I showed you a photograph of people leaving a monster truck rally, and people leaving a classical music concert — showing only their faces — you'd be able to tell which was which. We make these sorts of judgments every time we leave the house, and they're generally pretty reliable. If they weren't, we'd soon notice.
Second, When they were interviewed, all but a few of the migrants showed complete ignorance of the countries they were bound for, which were invariably Germany or Sweden. They knew not a single word of either of those languages, and were ignorant of the history, climate, food, culture, or even size of these countries. When asked why they wanted to go to Sweden or Germany, they always responded because there is money, jobs, work there and Merkel invited us and they need workers and they're building houses for us (g). Occasionally, some would say they had 'relatives' in some German or Swedish city or another. What you almost never heard was "I have an affinity for German culture", or "I believe I can contribute", or "I studied German for five years in school", or "I heard Firm X needs 800 welders, and I have 10 years experience in exactly that kind of welding".
Three, Some of the new arrivals said they were fleeing war or persecution in their home countries. But for every one who said that, there were at least 5 who said they had left their home countries because there were "no opportunities" (keine Perspektiven) for them there. Since most of these interviews were conducted by notoriously gullible German journalists, no follow-up questions were asked. The average German journalist has only a liberal-arts education in which things such as demand curves, marginal cost v. sunk cost, economies of scale, amortization, etc. never come up.
Their only understanding of how national economies work comes from moralizing discussions by leftist sociologists and philosophers, who themselves are usually ignorant of basic economic principles. The journalists therefore graduate knowing as much about how the economy works as a theology student knows about quantum mechanics. The problem is that a theologian can do his job perfectly well without knowing quantum mechanics, but a journalist cannot do his without at least some basic understanding of economic principles. To most German journalists, the "economy" is just a mysterious black box designed by those in power, whether intentionally or not, to exploit the poor. Really, what more is there to know?
So when the "refugee" said they had no prospects at home, the German journalist just shook his head in commiseration at the injustice of the world, thinking of some suitable Brecht poem about how the working class are eternally screwed no matter where they live. While the sensible viewer at home said: Why don't you ask him why he couldn't find a job? After all, even in poor countries, most able-bodied males are able to find work. Why can't this guy? Perhaps because he has no skills? Perhaps because he can't read? Perhaps because he stole from his last employer? Perhaps because he's a drug-dealing murderer like Hamza?
But no, the typical German journalist will never ask these things (even though he would consider them very relevant for someone of his social class) because the poor are to be regarded as a fungible mass, not as individuals with agency just like him.
In any event, German is now stuck with these people. My personal 20-60-20 prediction hasn't changed much since 2015: The brightest 20% (mostly those who already have an education or job skills) will probably make a successful transition, learning fluent German, getting jobs, and living independently. The bottom 20% will never learn anything but a few crude phrases, and will drift off into the underworld of black-market labor, organized crime, prostitution, and/or drug dealing. The middle 60% will learn a functional form of pidgin German relevant to whatever work they find, which will be intermittent, low-paid labor on construction sites or in warehouses or in government-subsidized job programs. They will never master German grammar or general vocabulary, and will always speak their native language at home. Perhaps a few will find stable work which will actually get them off the welfare rolls, but most won't.
If only German politicians had accepted these obvious facts when they were evident to most people, we could have had a much more honest debate.
The British think tank Chatham House just completed phase two of an interesting study. The first phase polled 10,000 Europeans on a host of public policy issues, including immigration. The top-line result — a whopping 56% of European oppose further immigration from Muslim countries — came out in February 2017. That took wind out of the sails of European press commentators, who were busy denouncing Donald Trump's plans to…stop further immigration from Muslim countries.
Perhaps inspired by this glaring disconnect between public opinion and published opinion, Chatham House decided to conduct a follow-up survey of European elites, which it defined as "individuals in positions of influence at local, regional, national and European levels across four key sectors (elected politicians, the media, business and civil society) – with 1,823 respondents (approximately 180 from each country) who were surveyed through a mix of telephone, face-to-face and online interviews."
A few days ago, the findings came out in a report called "The Future of Europe: Comparing Public and Elite Attitudes". The result: Europeans are hugely more skeptical about immigration, especially from Muslim countries, than the elites who govern them. Here are a few charts:
The report concludes: "These views reveal latent public sympathy for the core messages of the radical right on these topics. There are big socio-demographic differences, however, between those who hold such views. Citizens aged over 60 and with a lower level of education are notably more likely to view European and Islamic ways of life as irreconcilable. On some questions, there is also significant support among the elite sample. One possible explanation for such views among the elite is anxiety over the perceived challenge from Islam to liberal values, a concern that has become manifest in debates in France and the Netherlands over moves to impose partial bans on Islamic dress that covers the face. It may also be a consequence of recent Islamist terrorist attacks and of the fears of an increasingly divided society."
A few observations. First, the authors of the report are using the term "radical right" in the sense of "outside the mainstream". That's obtuse. When only 25% of of Europeans think immigration's been beneficial overall, and nearly twice that number think it's harmful, these views are mainstream. The problem is not that voters have been somehow "seduced" into endorsing "radical right" views. The problem is that only the right has taken up mainstream thinking on this issue. The democratic problem is not the popularity of the "radical" right. The democratic problem is the failure of any mainstream party to reflect the views of a majority of citizens in many EU countries. In the long term, this is an unsustainable and potentially dangerous state of affairs.
Second, these numbers reflect the bubble in which elites live. When urban elites (and yes, I include myself) think about immigration, they spontaneously associate it with (1) great ethnic food and (2) the individuals they know who come from these countries. I can't count the number of times I've heard educated, prosperous Europeans (they have a lot of discreet charm, but they're pretty conformist) make exactly these two points at dinner parties. "Oh, there's a great new Ethiopian place which opened up just a few streets away. Yay immigration!" and "The Iranian guy in my physics Ph. D. program is so nice and smart. Yay immigration!" Sometimes, you hear both cliches in one comment: "The nice Iranian guy in my physics Ph. D. program brought in a delicious lamb dish for us all to share last week! Yay immigration!"
Unless they actually live in run-down, gritty areas of German or French cities (spoiler alert: they don't), these urban elites will be unfamiliar with the nastier realities of immigration. There is no chance of them living next to a run-down high-rise which is taken over by immigrants and turned into a garbage-strewn sinkhole of bottom-barrel prostitution and drug-dealing (g). Nor do they live in streets where spontaneous mobs of clan members beat and terrorize police and bystanders (g). Nor is anyone going to build refugee shelters (g) in the high-rent inner-city neighborhoods they love. If any of these things do happen, our urban elites will discreetly move to more prosperous surroundings, without ever admitting exactly why (not enough dog parks…need more room for the kids…a friend of mine told me about this great place that just came on the market…)
Some form of this divide has, of course, always existed. However, it seems to me that it is growing rapidly now, and that the willingness of elites to frankly acknowledge the divide — much less actually do anything to bridge it — is steadily decreasing. That spells trouble, methinks.
Many thanks to Marek M., who pointed me to this chart based on a report provided by the German government to the Bundestag on 15 December 2016 (pdf, numbers from p. 245).
This is it — the one chart everyone needs to see before forming an opinion about immigration to Germany. The One Chart to Rule them All.
The brown line is the number of deportations from Germany in a year. The blue line is the number of illegal entries.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
Now, a few brief comments.
First, the notion that the 2015 influx is just a blip which will work itself out in the long run is false. In the mid-1990s, German policymakers suddenly decided that they would no longer try to actually deport all the people who entered Germany illegally. Starting in 2009, they essentially gave up on the idea of deporting any more than a tiny fraction of illegal immigrants. Even before the migrant influx of 2015, Germany as a whole was only managing to deport about 10% of all the people in Germany who had already been denied asylum.
Second, this breakdown in law and order is a result of many thousands of individual choices by actors in every single branch of the German government.
State governments. Organizing and enforcing deportations is the responsibility of individual German states, so the overall total abdication of deportations is a reflection of policy changes in all 16 German states. Some are much more dedicated to enforcing the law than others, but overall, the trend is downward.
Immigration bureaucrats. The individual decision-makers at immigration agencies can invoke dozens of exceptions to permit people who have already been denied asylum to stay in Germany. They can recognize a special exception for family members, or because of medical problems, or find that conditions in the immigrant's homeland are too unstable, or simply decide not to 'enforce' an existing immigration order.
By far the most common technique they apply is Duldung (toleration), in which someone who has no legal right to be in Germany is allowed to continue staying here as a matter of toleration — basically, the administrator uses his or her discretion to decide that if an illegal immigrant isn't causing a significant problem or has some argument why he should be allowed to stay, he will be permitted to stay in Germany for a temporary period, which can be renewed indefinitely.
Bureaucrats all over the world, like most people, have a noticeable preference for deciding cases in such a way as to create as little work for themselves as possible.
If Bogdan presents you with an obviously fake-looking medical certificate from a notoriously corrupt doctor, you have one of two choices. Either you continue Bogdan's 'tolerated' status, in which case he goes home happy. Or you start a tedious, time-consuming investigation into the genuineness of the certificate. Followed by the tedious, time-consuming, emotionally draining, stressful process of actually getting Bogdan deported. Bogdan has many chances to appeal a deportation order, so the process will take years. During which both Bogdan and his children will set down ever-deeper roots, making uprooting them that much more difficult.
Example: The attempt of police to pick up a rejected Afghan asylum-seeker to deport from a trade school in Nuremburg recently resulted in an all-out riot in which hundreds of the student's classmates blocked a street and threw bottles and even a bicycle(!) at the police, resulting in nine injured police officers:
Who wants all that aggravation?
Notice that this bureaucratic inertia results in perverse outcomes: a well-integrated illegal immigrant who admits he could be deported but argues that he should be allowed to stay simply because he's making a contribution will be at high risk of being deported. An illegal immigrant who lies to authorities and manipulates the system (like the Afghan (g) whose deportation caused the riot) will have a greater chance of being allowed to stay, since disproving his bogus arguments and denying his appeals will take so much effort. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
The courts. The German government sometimes passes laws designed to modestly adjust immigration laws to make them somewhat more restrictive. But none of these will have much effect if courts are generous in recognizing exceptions. German courts are notoriously all over the map when it comes to handling immigration appeals; some are soft touches, while others are rigorous. But the highest German courts often hand down decisions based on the German constitution or human-rights treaties which blow massive holes in the legal framework designed to enforce deportations.
One example is the 2013 decision by the German Federal Constitutional Court (g) on paternity questions in immigration cases. German law rather unwisely provides that a father's decision to officially acknowledge paternity of a child cannot be questioned. This law immediately set up a loophole in immigration law: pregnant women could fly to Germany and request asylum. They would immediately be granted temporary asylum based on a provision of German asylum law which extends automatic recognition to all pregnant mothers.
While being cared for in Germany (at German taxpayers' expense), the human trafficker running the operation pays € 5,000 (the going rate, according to reports) to a German male, who then files an official recognition of paternity. Since the child is now the child of a German father, the child automatically becomes a German citizen when born. And the mother automatically gets a residency permit, since it would be inhumane to break up the family. The father could theoretically be required to pay child support, but the ones who participate in the racket are all on welfare anyway, so they are exempt from child-support obligations. Immigration authorities went to court to argue that they should be able to conduct official paternity tests to disprove the claim of fatherhood, but the Federal Constitutional Court rejected their appeal in 2013. Allowing the authorities to contest the fatherhood claim, the Court reasoned, would create an unacceptable risk that the child might end up stateless.
The result? There are now 700 suspected cases (g) of this form of immigration fraud in Berlin alone. According to the investigative report, many of the mothers ended up becoming prostitutes, working for the human traffickers who imported them and financed the fake fatherhood certificates. The report linked to just above profiles a particularly ironic case: the German 'fake father' who claimed he had a child with an illegal Vietnamese immigrant was actually a far-right extremist an prominent member of the extreme-right NPD party. Apparently the prospect of a quick € 5,000 was more important to this neo-Nazi welfare case than protecting the racial purity of the German Volk. Are you as shocked as I am?
The system is completely broken. Only the foolishly honest or stupid actually get deported, the cunning and the criminal get to stay. Further, everyone across the world understands this: if you somehow manage to set foot in Germany and have some reasonable understanding of German law, there is about a 90% chance you will be able to remain in Germany for the rest of your life, regardless of all the carefully-wrought provisions of German law.
UPDATE: I updated this post on 7 June to reflect that the chart itself is not actually contained in the report, and that the numbers on which the chart is based appear on p. 245 of the linked document.
One year ago, Germany was named the “best country” in the world, according to a poll by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. The poll relied on criteria measuring entrepreneurship, power, public education, and quality of life, among others. But for a growing number of Germans, the important thing was that it offered confirmation of their own self-image. Their country slipped to fourth in this year’s poll, behind Switzerland, Canada, and the United Kingdom, but that seems unlikely to do much to dim the self-confidence of a country enjoying a surging economy and growing international cachet.
Whether the field is migration or manufacturing, fiscal policy or renewable energy, Germans increasingly believe that they, and they alone, know best, at least judging from the attitude newly on display everywhere from newspaper columns to parliamentary speeches to barroom chats over beer. In German the phenomenon is summed up in one word: Besserwisserei, a know-it-all attitude, which the Germans themselves admit is somewhat of an engrained cultural trait.
But it’s increasingly clear that one country’s allegedly evidence-based Besserwisserei is another country’s intolerable smugness. Just ask Germany’s European neighbors, and others, including the United States, where resentment of Germans has been percolating for years, under constant threat of bubbling over….
German high-handedness is eliciting angry charges of “moral imperialism” from Hungary, and its central European neighbors, including Slovakia, Poland, and Croatia, largely concur. Meanwhile, during the first round of the French presidential election, candidates from more than one party chastised Merkel for dictating a German eurozone policy. “We order it, you obey, and tout suite,” is how the German publisher Wolfram Weimer critically summed up Germany’s new modus operandi during the bailout negotiations in an article titled “Virtuous Totalitarianism”. U.S. economist Paul Krugman repeatedly blasts Germany for “moralizing” on European fiscal policy, namely Germany’s obsession with budget discipline, which he considers entirely counterproductive. Since Germany’s setting of the onerous terms for the eurozone’s recovery packages, beginning in 2011, surveys in Europe show that many fellow Europeans consider Germans arrogant, insensitive, and egotistical (while, strangely, praising their dependability and influence in Europe)….
Of course, another reason German smugness can get under the skin is the fact that Germany simply isn’t nearly as universally superlative as it might prefer to think. A close corollary of Besserwisserei has always been hypocrisy. So Germany may browbeat other countries about their deficits today, but other Europeans remember that in the 2000s, when the German economy was in the dumps, and again during the financial crisis, Berlin consistently ran budget deficits in excess of eurozone rules — and avoided penalties for it. The deficits were critical for Germany to get its economy going again.
Meanwhile, Germany insists that other countries follow its lead on climate change, shutting down nuclear power stations and switching to clean energy generation. But Germany is Europe’s biggest burner of dirty coal (seventh in the world), and it’s not on track to hit the Paris Agreement’s reduction targets for 2020. Its best-selling export is big, expensive, gas-guzzling luxury automobiles, including diesels. The Dieselgate scandal caught Volkswagen and other German car manufacturers cheating on emissions tests.
And it’s no accident that the scandal was uncovered in the United States, far from the reach of German political and cultural power — nor that Germany’s discussion about the scandal has been just as focused on how the German auto companies in question can be saved rather than about the financial or moral atonement they might owe. “It’s obvious that the EU should take over emissions testing and that the commission should impose huge fines on Germany,” Lever says. “But it won’t, because it’s Germany, that’s why. It shows how much power Germany has now.”
Christopher Caldwell's 2009 book, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, is the best book on the European experience with Muslim immigration out there. It avoids the hysterical doom-mongering that plagues North American neo-conservatives and geriatric European reactionaries on this issue. But because Caldwell is an American and is therefore not bound by European taboos, he makes a lot of points which are rarely addressed in Europe.
His 2009 interview in Der Spiegel remains as relevant as ever, since the problems remain basically the same, even as their scale increases:
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are you suggesting there is no open discussion about Islam in Europe?
Caldwell: I think these things are getting much more openly debated than a few years ago. In the Netherlands and Denmark you do have a contentious debate. I think a lot of Danes and Dutch aren't really proud of the way their populist parties are discussing the issue of immigration, but it's generally much better if things are discussed openly….
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In your book, "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe," you cast a skeptical light on Europe's relationship with its Muslim immigrants. In your view, do Muslim immigrants pose a threat to the Continent?
Caldwell: I don't speak of a threat, exactly. This is a very important distinction. The debate up until now has been marked by two extremes. On the one side you have the doomsayer extreme, the people who say Islam is "taking over" Europe. On the other, you have people with the point of view that there's no problem at all, except racism. I think both positions are wrong, and I have tried to set a new tone.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Nevertheless, when reading your book, one leaves it with the impression that you think Europe will have real trouble integrating its Muslim immigrants.
Caldwell: Islam poses difficulties that other immigrant groups do not. Part of it is the growth of political Islam in the world in the last half-century. A large minority of European Muslims feel solidarity with the Muslim community abroad, and they feel at the same time that the West is at war with this world. That makes the transition into a European identity more difficult. But I think the problems at the cultural level are more important.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Such as?
Caldwell: A lot of overly optimistic people expect Muslims to give up, or to modify, their religion over time. They're going to change in some way, but we don't really know how. And attitudes around religion provide a lot of potential for conflict — the attitudes towards women, towards family relations, sexual freedom or gay rights.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The percentage of Muslims in the European population is very low. The total is about 5 percent.
Caldwell: Right. The population of Western Europe is about 400 million, and there are about 20 million Muslims. Nevertheless, the population (of Muslims) continues to grow.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: But to what extent is it really growing? You base this argument on a higher birth rate, but a number of studies suggest that in the second or third generations, immigrants have birthrates closer to the national average.
Caldwell: That is true. There are two things that will cause the immigrant descended population in Europe to grow in the coming years. One is that immigrants are still coming and the other is that birth rates, although they are falling, are still higher. But the real issue is not the size of the immigrant population. It is that their culture needs to be accommodated within Europe in a way that requires Europe to change its structures….
SPIEGEL ONLINE: To what extent are your views shaped by the fact that you're an American?
Caldwell: As an outsider, one has the advantage of seeing parallels between European countries as well as differences. I come from a country that has experience with a multiethnic society, and America's history has some lessons for Europe. Just because the European Muslim community is a small one does not mean it is uninfluential or that it can be ignored or that the problems surrounding it are trivial and will go away. Blacks have traditionally made up about only about 10 percent of the US population. But we have a horrible history of race conflict that has shaken our country for centuries.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is America more successful when it comes to integrating immigrants?
Caldwell: For now, yes. I think the first reason is the ruthlessness of the American economy. You either become a part of it or you go home. There are more foreigners in the workplace, and that's where a lot of integration happens. And because most immigrants are in the workplace, you never hear, as you do in Europe, that immigrants don't want to work. No American would dream of saying that.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why do you think that's the case?
Caldwell: There is no welfare state on the scale of that in Europe, and I think welfare states are a bad fit for large-scale immigration. In an ethnically diverse society, people are less familiar with each other, and they are correspondingly less willing to pay taxes for social benefits. Two-thirds of the imams in France are on welfare. There is nothing wrong with being an imam. But I don't think the French are very happy about paying what is effectively a state subsidy for religion in that way.
The welfare state is a key distinction. I can't count the number of times people have asked me: "But you come from America, the nation of immigrants! How can you be so skeptical about Europe doing what America's been doing for centuries?"
The first answer is, of course, that European countries aren't nations of immigrants. Historians will often try to disprove this by pointing to ancient population flows, but they never convince anyone (not least because those population flows were usually accompanied by massive bloodshed). The fact is that European countries have established, centuries-old traditions and attitudes that are odd and opaque to outsiders, but which mean something to people born there.
More importantly, the European welfare state is an obstacle to integrating low-skilled foreigners, because it means they never have to work. Of course, most of them do eventually find jobs, but at rates lower than the native population. The U.S. gives immigrants nothing. They are expected to find jobs by themselves, without hand-holding by the state. Sink or swim.
Of course, immigrant Americans do end up on welfare more frequently than the native population, but America has an Anglo-Saxon welfare state that provides temporary assistance during down times. It is telling that the former U.S. welfare program called "Aid to Families with Dependent Children" was renamed in 1996 to "Temporary Assistance for Needy Families".
Temporary. You will get help for some time, but then it will stop, and you'll need to find another solution: Move in with family members, sell your possessions, beg on the streets. But preferably, you'll find a job. Will there be a welfare case-worker there to help you find it? No, you'll have to find one yourself. Same thing if you're an immigrant.
Northern European welfare systems, by contrast, provide a permanent, unconditional lifelong cushion of support. (Southern European welfare systems aspire to this but don't have the money or organizational competence to genuinely deliver it). If you simply choose never to even try to find a job, you will continue receiving health insurance, rent support for a small individual apartment, and a basic income, no matter what. It will be anything but luxurious, but it can never be terminated, because the state must guarantee every person in its borders a basic level of existence required by human dignity.
Thus, Americans tend to look at unskilled immigrants as thrifty, God-fearing, hard-working types willing to do nasty jobs. Europeans tend to look at unskilled immigrants as yet another potential addition to the welfare rolls. They're not wrong: in 2006 every fourth welfare recipient (g) in Germany was a foreigner. And that number has skyrocketed: a recent government report leaked to the press showed that as refugees leave the program of temporary refugee assistance and enter the official government welfare rolls, the number only of non-European foreign welfare recipients shot up 132% from 2015 to 2016 — an increase of about 400,000, to a total of 698,872 (g).
That's a whole lot of people to support, potentially for life, with free government-financed education, housing, healthcare, and welfare. Of course, some of these people will seek and find jobs. But they'll be in direct competition with low-skilled native workers. Low-skilled workers have noticed that their wages have stagnated with decades. They are also going to notice fresh competition from hundreds of thousands of foreigners willing to work for a fraction of their wages.
But hundreds of thousands of these newcomers with either never look for a job, or never find one. And plenty of Germans will ask a simple question:
"How does it benefit Germany — or me — for politicians to import hundreds of thousands of foreigners who will simply live here on welfare until they die?"
Of course, many members of the urban haute bourgeoisie, and probably all church officials, will react with outrage to this question. But that's not going to stop people from asking it, and demanding answers.
There are around 600 so-called "dangerous persons" (g) (Gefährder) living in Germany. These are people on an official government watch list because they're considered at high risk of committing terrorist attacks or other acts of violence. Most of them are Islamists. Some of them are in custody, others are not, some are under strict surveillance, others aren't. As with a lot of things in Germany, it's complicated.
In February of this year, German cops raided one of these men. He was a foreign national from "country N" (I'll presume Nigeria), born and raised in Germany, now a radical Islamist. He wanted to join up with ISIS in Syria, but couldn't manage the funds and paperwork, so he mulled over attacks in Germany with his chat partner, Abdullah K. who either was or pretended to be an ISIS recruiter.
The opinion (g) of the Federal Administrative Court authorizing his deportation lists the possible targets identified in these chats: stabbing police officers, building a car bomb, attacking a "university party or gay parade", attacking people in a pedestrian zone with a kitchen knife or car bomb, throwing stones from a highway bridge, or driving a car or truck into a crowd. In messages marked by truly shitty spelling, our nice Nigerian friend went on for pages and pages about how it was necessary to set Germany "in flames", spread "fear", "we can do more damage here at home", etc.
To prove he wasn't as dangerous as all that, his lawyers tried a novel defense:
The danger posed by the applicant is not contradicted by the fact that he recently acquired a young cat, since the symbol of the cat is an Islamically-justified expression of masculine tenderness and Salafist fighters from the West, in particular have used cats to convey the message of the masculinity of Jihadis. (see Dr. Mariella Ourghi, Ideas of Masculinity Among Salafists, Website of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation)
In 2014, we encountered a new aspect of the presentation of Jihadi masculinity, observed mainly among militants from the West. They present themselves in videos giving sweets to children, which is intended to express caring affection. Even more frequently, they post photos of themselves hugging and petting cats. The symbol of a cat as a sign of masculine tenderness in Islam is explained by the fact that the Prophet Muhammad and his companion Abu Huraira (literally "Father of the kitten") were known to be cat-lovers. The fact that it is primarily fighters socialized in the West who used cat photos appears not to be coincidental, since it corresponds to modern conceptions of masculinity in the West. One part of this is that most women today view tenderness and affection as an important part of a fulfilled relationship, and demands this from men…. Posing with cats therefore is aimed at potential marriage candidates, to convey the image of an affectionate lover in addition to that of strong masculinity.
German intelligence, if you're reading this blog (which would be flattering), I admit that I have two cats. However, I swear I'm a peaceful guy. Please don't deport me back to the USA — can you really call it a safe country of origin?