17 ene. (hace 3 días)
The Opinion Pages | Contributing Op-Ed Writer
Can Germany Be Honest About Its Refugee Problems?
Jochen Bittner JAN. 15, 2016
Angela Merkel Credit Markus Schreiber/Associated Press
Hamburg — FOR all its horror, what happened on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and other German cities might help the Germans solve a longstanding problem. The issue is not the one-million-plus refugees who have come to us in the first place. It is how to deal with problems that immigrants might be, are or will be causing.
More than 650 criminal complaints have been filed by women in Cologne regarding that night, and more than 150 in Hamburg, including two cases of rape. A 28-year-old women named Katia said: “Suddenly I felt a hand on my bum, on my breasts, I was grabbed everywhere, it was horrific. I was desperate, it was like running the gantlet. Over the space of 200 meters, I think I must have been touched about 100 times.” Of the 50 suspects identified in Cologne, the bulk are from northern Africa, mostly from Morocco.
These are uncomfortable facts. And until now, Germans have struggled to find an appropriate, decent way to address the issues they raise, without being labeled a Nazi or a fool. At last, this is changing. If Willkommenskultur, the welcoming culture, was the word of the year for 2015, this year’s leading candidate should be Ehrlichkeitskultur, the honesty culture. Cologne has been the catalyst: It shows that we must talk more frankly, yet not less responsibly, about immigration.
It is now up to Chancellor Angela Merkel to transform the new soberness into action. She has already made corrections to her open-door policy, including a stricter deportation law for immigrants who commit crimes. But she’ll have to do even more, and she’ll have to do it quickly.
The news about the Cologne attacks resembled a bomb going off in slow motion, and its effects have been absorbed just as slowly, in less of a panic than a controlled shock. First, the police in Cologne withheld information about the mass sexual assaults (the police chief later resigned). When the details started to emerge, journalists were reluctant to admit the mere possibility that refugees had been involved, although this was pretty obvious from various witness accounts early on.
All the while, the political left tried to play down the event. Claudia Roth, a Bundestag leader from the Green Party, compared the mass crimes in Cologne to the sexual harassments that she said happen every year at the Munich Oktoberfest (which police records show to be false). The head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany warned that it would be a “major mistake” to draw any conclusions about the cultural backgrounds of these men. If this sounds like ignorance and appeasement, it is.
In fact, the attacks do fit a pattern: According to the Cologne police, 40 percent of the city’s immigrants from northern Africa become delinquent, mainly for theft, within their first year in Germany. Another problem, the police say, is that in order to avoid deportation, many asylum seekers from this region ditch their passports so that their home country is unknown.
The charge that economic immigrants are masquerading as refugees, long denied here — including by Ms. Merkel herself — is now painfully, undeniably true. And why wouldn’t it be? If you’re a 20-something Moroccan without any job prospects, and suddenly an airline ticket to Istanbul equals an entry ticket into Europe, wouldn’t you take your chance?
The problem, as Cologne demonstrates, is that potentially thousands of these men are criminals, with no other aim than to rob and betray their hosts. This is despicable and unbearable.
Ms. Merkel should acknowledge that she underestimated this problem. The continuation of Willkommenskultur depends on her embracing an Ehrlichkeitskultur. In particular, she must do three things.
First, find a way to separate the free riders and criminals from the refugees. Thanks to the lack of identity checks at the borders in the past months, we just don’t know whether many of those who have poured into Germany have done so for good reasons or bad. This has to be established now by all possible means, by taking fingerprints, photos and other personal information and exchanging them with authorities in the home countries.
Then we need to deport those who have no right to stay, quickly and visibly. The German government says that currently, 8,000 people from northern Africa, mostly from Morocco and Tunisia, are obliged to leave Germany, but they can’t be sent back because their home countries won’t accept them without papers. These countries need to be pressured into cooperation.
Finally, we have to be willing to intern those who arrive without passports. This sounds harsh, but it is appropriate. People who cross the border without ID must be prevented from roaming freely within Germany. Once in semi-custody (meaning that you cannot get into Germany, but you’re free to go home), it wouldn’t take long to determine where they came from, and why.
The idea isn’t new: Special sites for people from the Balkans who filed mostly pointless asylum requests after the fighting there were set up in Bavaria. This has reduced the influx from these countries considerably.
Ms. Merkel has said that right now, our country needs to draw on a new German pragmatism. Yes, but it also needs German thoroughness, not least for the sake of the real refugees who need our protection. Without a cleareyed Ehrlichkeitskultur that addresses real problems in a reasonable tone, we risk seeing it fall into the hands of the growing far right.
Jochen Bittner is a political editor for the weekly newspaper Die Zeit.
Deportations and violence have driven tens of thousands of people of Haitian
descent from their homes in the Dominican Republic — while the world is silent.
descent from their homes in the Dominican Republic — while the world is silent.
The Opinion Pages | Letters
As Refugees Flee Violence in Central America
JAN. 14, 2016
Credit John Moore/Getty Images
To the Editor:
“Surge of Immigrants Complicates Obama’s Plans” (news article, Jan. 9) briefly discusses a fundamental problem with President Obama’s approach to what the United Nations refugee agency has called a “looming refugee crisis” in Central America. As the article notes, the administration’s goal all along has been “to stem” the flow of families fleeing escalating violence in Central America.
The government’s aim of deterring asylum seekers from entering the United States has resulted in flawed and dangerous summary deportations at the border and mass detention, including of women and small children. Added to that is misguided enforcement, like the arrests on New Year’s weekend of Central American families.
In its preoccupation with preventing asylum seekers from coming, officials — and politicians — have consistently acted as if entering this country and presenting a claim for asylum is illegal. But both United States and international law affirm otherwise.
Instead, the administration should focus on assessing asylum claims fairly, developing its welcome new program to resettle refugees from the region, and supporting efforts to end the terrifying circumstances these people have fled.
Researcher, U.S. Program
Human Rights Watch
To the Editor:
Re “A Shameful Roundup of Refugees” (editorial, Jan. 8):
The Obama campaign of targeting refugees is most certainly “appalling,” as your editorial notes. But focusing on “felons, not families” is not the solution; it is part of the problem. In promising to deport people with criminal records, Immigration and Customs Enforcement continually violates human rights and tears families apart.
The Immigrant Defense Project has monitored ICE raids since 2013 and has uncovered troubling patterns and abuses: ICE often uses deceit and force, detaining people battling serious medical conditions, as well as caregivers of young children. These are parents, grandparents and siblings, some with minor convictions; others have long ago served time and worked hard to rebuild their lives.
The immigration system is extremely unforgiving; even a minor conviction can lead to permanent exile, and in most cases a judge has no discretion to waive deportation.
The country is increasingly re-examining the human cost of harsh and discriminatory systems that feed mass imprisonment. Similarly we must scrutinize the immigration control system and stop the vilification of people with convictions to justify inhumane mass deportation programs that also undermine values of justice and fairness.
Immigrant Defense Project
To the Editor:
The best response the United States can make to people fleeing the “murderous homelands” of Central America is to end the misguided, counterproductive “war on drugs” we have been waging since the Nixon administration. We have a duty to end the useless carnage of the war on drugs for the sake of our own violent communities — by your definition, many inner-city American families would qualify as refugees from a murderous homeland — as well as those in Central America.
We can help only a tiny fraction by resettlement in the United States. We could help everyone by ending a prohibition effort even more senseless, bloody and crime-producing than the one against alcohol from 1920 to 1933.
To the Editor:
Since 1996 it is we — America — who have deported deadly criminal gang members to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, who then matured and metastasized into the mortal threats that these refugees have come here to escape. If we could not handle the gangs in Los Angeles, how can we expect much smaller governments to handle them in Central America?
MARK E. NERENBERG
The writer is an immigration lawyer.
A version of this letter appears in print on January 15, 2016, on page A30 of the New York edition with the headline: As Refugees Flee Central America.
E.U.’s Open Borders Are in Danger, German Minister Warns
By JAMES KANTER - JAN. 15, 2016
Migrants on the Greek island of Lesbos in November. The Greek coast is a common arrival point for migrants who then move north in the hope of gaining asylum in countries like Germany and Sweden. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
BRUSSELS — The pressures facing Germany as it contends with record levels of migration burst into the open on Friday as the country’s finance minister warned the rest of the European Unionthat freedom to move within the bloc could be “close” to ending.
The minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, an influential member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, made the remarks in Brussels at the end of a two-day meeting of finance ministers. He said that Europe’s open internal borders, known as the Schengen system, faced grave threats and could soon collapse as more countries — including Germany — re-establish border controls and checkpoints to regulate who can enter and leave.
“Nobody should think that it’s a problem of one country,” Mr. Schäuble told reporters, referring to the influx of migrants that brought more than a million arrivals to Germany last year.
Mr. Schäuble suggested that Germany could follow the example of Sweden, which, like Germany, has been a leading destination for migrants, and which now requires that anyone arriving from Denmark by bus, train or boat have their documents checked first.
But, Mr. Schäuble said, “If Germany took such a decision, that would not be a German problem, but a huge threat for Europe.”
The comments by Mr. Schäuble were a sign of how worried Berlin has become about the future of the Schengen system and whether Europe can muster an effective response to the crisis after Mrs. Merkel threw open Germany’s borders to migrants last year in a humanitarian gesture that earned her, and Germany, accolades.
While pointing out a real danger, Mr. Schäuble’s comments appeared to amount to less of a threat than an attempt to spur action from European Union partners to help reduce the flow of refugees and migrants to Europe.
The comments came after it emerged on Friday that Italy was holding up a plan for the 28 European Union member states to contribute 3 billion euros, about $3.2 billion, to Turkey in order to help its government improve the conditions of the refugees living there. In turn, Ankara is supposed to do more to stop migrants from attempting to reach the Greek coast, which is a common arrival point for migrants who move north in the hope of gaining asylum in countries like Germany and Sweden.
Italy, which wants more flexibility from Brussels about its ability to manage its national budget, has demanded that the money for Turkey come from the European Union’s central budget.
As such, Mr. Schäuble also noted that the way to avoid undoing the Schengen system was “if we solve the problems quicker, through better and more effective protection of the external borders and through more and more intensive support and cooperation with the regions and the countries in the neighborhood, the region of origin and neighboring regions, so that the flow to Europe clearly declines.”
“And for that,” he added, “we will need a lot more money.”
But after nearly a year of seeking a unified response to the influx, speed has not proved to be the European Union’s specialty. It is still improvising solutions even as the war in Syria, which is helping to drive the exodus, looks likely to continue. Plans developed months ago by the European Union to relocate tens of thousands of migrants arriving in Italy and Greece have failed to gain traction, and fewer than 300 people have been moved so far.
The bloc is still discussing whether to allow specialized border guards to take over responsibility from national officials in countries like Greece in order to ensure external security.
Overshadowing those efforts are growing concerns about a cultural gulf between Europeans and newly arrived migrants after a spate of robberies and cases of harassment and sexual attacks against women in Germany and Sweden. Many of those episodes reportedly involved foreign men, including some refugees.
In recent weeks, Germany has been moving to shift its policies as criticism mounts within the country that Mrs. Merkel has failed to clearly articulate a plan for an integration process that is likely to last many years.
Since the start of the year, Germany has tightened its screening of migrants trying to enter the country from Austria, even as other European countries like Hungary have erected fences or border checkpoints to block or divert the flow of migrants.
A version of this article appears in print on January 16, 2016, on page A5 of the New York edition with the headline: German Minister Issues Warning on Open Borders .