The immigration crisis in Germany is transforming into an internal political crisis. In 2015, the local authorities registered over 1,000,000 refugees. According to the latest statistics, Germany hosts some 1,087,478 legal immigrants. 250,000 more may have entered the country illegally. The Germans are unable to control this process. Despite winter, no fewer than 3,000-4,000 refugees are entering their country each day against 10,000 refugees in Nov 2015.
The crisis has been steadily developing since Sept 2014, so, to many it seems that this process is being controlled by some third force. Presently, the German authorities are trying to react to the Silvester eve events in Cologne. The police have found 19 immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East that may be privy to the incident. The events in Cologne have received a wide response in Europe, so, the German authorities have no other way but to react. In early Jan 2016, they realized that the uncontrolled inflow of refugees may cause a social firestorm. So, they are forced to be tough on those breaking the public order. On Jan 12, the events in Cologne were discussed in the Bundestag.
The MPs urged Angela Merkel to reconsider her immigration policy. Merkel insists on a complex approach to this problem.
According to this approach, point “a” is Turkey as a buffer regulator in the way of refugees from the Middle East. In Nov 2015, the EU and Turkey agreed that the Europeans (more specifically, the Germans) will pay the Turks 3bn EUR for their “service” not to let refugees to Europe. On Jan 22, 2016, the Germans and the Turks are planning to meet again, with the former expected to insist that the latter limit the flow of refugees towards Europe. In Feb 2016, an international conference will consider increasing funding for camps for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. That is, the world community is planning to try to keep refugees in the countries neighboring to Syria and Iraq.
Point “b” and “c” are refugee quotas for the EU members. Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary are refusing to give shelter to refugees referring to the events in Cologne. In the meantime, demonstrators in Germany are striding in the streets with pictures of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who warned about the catastrophe as early as last summer. Quotas will guarantee solidarity in the EU, but they will not solve the problem of refugees. Poland, for example, has agreed to receive just 7,000 of the 160,000 refugees that entered Europe in 2015. In Germany alone there already are more than 1,000,000 of them.
The Germans are actively discussing reducing the quota to 200,000 refugees a year. But it is not clear what the Germans will do if the quota is exceeded in 2016 or 2017. With almost 3,000 refugees entering Germany each day now, this quota will be exceeded by Mar 2016. Merkel does not want the quota to be reduced but her partners from the coalition are of another opinion. CSU Leader Horst Seehofer suggests cutting the quota to 200,000. But he needs the support of the Social Democrats to have this initiative discussed in the Bundestag.
The problem here is that this principle is contrary to Germany’s constitution, which says that any person fleeing political persecution should have the right to shelter. In 1993, the Germans adopted a law allowing them to deny refuge to people immigrating into their country from so-called safe neighbor states. This means that today they can deny refugees to almost everybody but if they do, they will have to send the refugees back to neighbor EU states, who are not able or not willing to receive them.
Point “d” is red-tape. The Germans are believed to be good at solving bureaucratic problems. But today they feel the need to improve this system. Particularly, they need better interaction between federal lands and local migrations authorities. Initial registration on the border should be a guarantee that refugees let into the country will not cause problems afterwards. On Jan 14, the Bundestag approved a law giving refugees a special certificate and obliging them to live where they are sent. This measure is supposed to prevent refugees from creating ghettos in big German cities. Today, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees is considering 600-2,000 petitions but this is still fewer than the number of refugees arriving in the country. So, the office may need to employ more workers.
Point “d” is easy deportation. Now the Germans are planning to adopt a number of amendments to be able to deport foreigners for committing crimes in their territory. The German interior and justice ministers submitted such a bill on Jan 12 2016. If the bill is approved, the German authorities will be able to deport a foreigner if he or she has been sentenced to at least one year in jail. Such people either will have to serve their terms in Germany and then will be deported or will be sent to serve their terms to their home countries. For countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya this is hardly possible. Meanwhile, some Germans say that foreigners should be deported even for administrative crimes.
Both ministers are Christian Democrats, so, their bill needs support from the Social Democrats to be approved. The latter will hardly refuse – as none of the German parties wants to spoil its rating because of the “Cologne Silvester.”
But the key problem here is how to deport people to the countries that refuse to take them back. Besides, it is ethically wrong to send people to places where they may face war, tortures or even death. The Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees does not allow deporting people denied refugees status to regions where they may face wars or repressions. Besides, in order to be able to send back a refugee the Germans will need consent of the host country.
Last year, Germany deported 18,363 people, who came mostly from Albania, Kosovo and Serbia. Presently, the Germans are sending lots of Afghani or African refugees back to Austria – but what should the Austrians do with those people? In Dec 2015, the Germans deported almost 60 people a day. Now they are deporting as many as 200 people. Secretary General of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany Peter Tauber insists on deporting no less than 1,000 people a day. This means that the authorities should deny refuge to each second seeker. But once Austria is full of refugees, this system may stop working.
Mass deportation requires lots of money. In 2015, Germany registered a budget surplus of 12.1bn EUR. The German authorities are planning to use this money to solve the immigration crisis in 2016-2017. This is the worst thing they could decide to do. Now more refugees will come to Germany as they have seen that the country has money for them. But quite recently the Germans specified that they are going to spend the money on the denial and deportation procedures.
Above is what the Germans yet have for overcoming their immigration crisis. But this is not enough. So, 2016 may become decisive for Merkel and her part. She will have to decide by no later than next autumn so as to have any hopes for the elections 2017. The first test will be the Mar 13 elections in three federal lands. Currently, the Christian Democrats are losing their voters but the latter are going not to the Social Democrats but to the newly formed AfD. So, the immigration crisis can make this force the third in the race ahead of the Greens and the Left.
EADaily’s European Bureau