MS Risk Blog

Germany and Refugees

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Germany’s open acceptance of refugees have put a massive strain on the country. The recent talks to form a government were bogged down over issues of refuges, and a political party with connections in the far right has been gaining more power. Refugees have changed the political landscape of Germany.

After the brutal civil war in Syria many fled the country. They fled to Europe where they were not always accepted. Germany opened their arms to the refugees. There were scenes of people cheering when they arrived in train stations and the German government suspended the Dublin rules for Syrian refugees; The Dublin rules state that asylum seekers can only apply for asylum in the country that they arrive in. The move lessened the impact of the refugees on countries like Greece and Hungary, but put Germany’s infrastructure under a lot of pressure as over 150,000 refuges were accepted in 2015. As of 2017 Germany had accepted an estimative 1.5 million immigrants. The cost of settling and educating the refugees was put at 21 billion.

Angela Merkel championed the refugees and it won her praise but also a lot of criticism even from members of her own party. The election in 2017 reduced Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) vote by 8%. Many of the CDU were afraid of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) during the election as they were appealing to the right wing, as such they didn’t offer much protection to the refugees. In the aftermath of the election Merkel’s old coalition partners the Social Democratic Party (SDP) claimed it wouldn’t seek another coalition forcing the CDU to have to forge a government with two other parties. After four weeks negotiation failed, one of the major issues between them was asylum. The SDP later agreed to talk but asylum remained a contentious issue between the two parties. After much negotiation the parties agreed and formed the government 3 months after the election.

While many in Germany opened their arms to the refugees at first the sentiment has definitely soured over the years. In 2015 there was a sharp increase in attacks against refugee’s homes by far right groups. Germany also suffered several terrorist attacks from some of the refugees that had been accepted, fueling the political rise of the AfD. The far right linked party became the third largest party after they received 11% of the vote, an increase of 6% from the last election. The party has flirted with taboo subjects such as ‘reclaiming’ völkisch a word used by the Nazis when referring to the German race; they have also taken to referring to the press as Lügenpresse or lying press. The party owes its success to the influx of immigrants and is exposing a dark underbelly in Germany.

Refugees has changed Germany, in this period of change the country faces uncertainty and it is reflected in its political process that left them without a government for several months and a rising extreme party.