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" A little digression: Due to current events Alon Levy wrote about "Cities and Immigration". At the end of the post he describes Sweden's ultimately wrong decision about the refugee housing problem."

Interesting article, but he does not describe what you say he describes. The article is about immigrants, not refugees. Though there are similarities, there are very large differences too, and what we are talking about is refugees. People who can judge the danger of crossing the Mediterranean in a leaky dinghy perfectly well--and know that the journey is less dangerous than a walk around the block at home in Syria. They will come to us, no matter how many fences. All the fences increase the risk for the refugees, and the profit for the smugglers, but the refugees will come. Can you please suggest how you wish the European reaction to be? And what demands and actions you wish the left to make?

The very high inflow these days needs emergency accomodation. I quite agree that empty barracks in the middle of nowhere and the like are not suitable for a months long stay, but then it has been German practice to place refugees in accomodation in the middle of nowhere. I am not sure that this is the moment to intensify the criticism of this policy. I have always supported campaigns to let refugees use normal flats, and not to use mass accomodation (which was introduced to "deter" refugees anyway). Just now I support using every inhabitable shelter anywhere for the short term.

" The role of the left is not to distribute teddy bears or chant "Refugees welcome!" till Christmas. That just makes the problem objectively and politically worse."

What, worse?! Could you explain why?

The role of the left should not be restricted to distributing teddy bears or chanting, but both are still quite useful activities to extend solidarity to human beings in need, and to create a counter narrative to the "swarms" or "floods" narratives of dehumanisation.  

"More refugees are not the answer."

Then tell me what to do with the refugees who are coming. Fences or the sea don't keep them out. What do you want to do with them, quite practically, I mean? If you want to deport them, how? They will resist, after all they have nothing to lose. Is that really your dream of a left movement demonstrating how a world of solidarity, justice, cooperation can work instead of the neoliberal world of competition, inequality, confrontation that we must live in?

"Otherwise, the NSU terrorists that were born out of the refugee crisis of the nineties will have even nastier successors"

The NSU terrorists had nothing to do with a refugee crisis, and everything with the loss of economic security. Contact with refugees (or other immigrants) reduces racisms, because then they are perceived as persons and not as an anonymous mass. Another argument in favour of campaigns of teddy bear distribution.

by Katrin on Sat Sep 12th, 2015 at 05:05:09 PM EST
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Katrin:
to create a counter narrative to the "swarms" or "floods" narratives of dehumanisation.  

That is a vital function above all.

I used to be afew. I'm still not many.

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Sun Sep 13th, 2015 at 02:04:18 AM EST
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The people who enthusiastically go to central stations with teddy bears don't have to be convinced that refugees are people. Or do they? This article is actually funny:

Migrants in Germany - Finally Welcome! - Candan Six-Sasmaz - Süddeutsche

Candan Six-Sasmaz was born in Germany. Suddenly she is greeted with applause and teddy bears at a train station - before her fellow citizens want to bring her to a refugee camp.

As a journalist I'm on the road often. ... As soon as I descended the steps from the station platform I heard applause... this joyous welcome was apparantly directed at me.

... "Welcome Refugees!!!" Huh? Oh, okay. I understood. Obviously I just arrived on a train with refugees. Embarassed, I looked around again. But I didn't see any Syrian...

I turned my blushing face down and rushed down the stairs. Still accompanied by applause and cries of welcome. Are they laughing at me or with me? I just wanted to get away. But four men ... greeted me kindly: "Selam Aleyküm. Welcome in Germany!". Without thinking I answered "Aleyküm Selam." Big mistake. Because then it was no question whether I was a refugee or not. I was.

... He explained something in a language I didn't understand ... I finally understood that he tried to talk in English. I tried to explain to him that I wasn't a refugee. First in English, then Arabic, and finally in German but in vain.

My words were lost in the screaming and jubilations. The people were crowded around me. They pushed sandwiches, drinks, and teddy bears into my hands. Apparently, the first thing a refugees needs on his arrival in Germany is a teddy bear. While generously giving me their presents they looked at me expectantly. They were waiting for the the light of gratitude in my eyes. Instead I could only give them a disappointed frown.

The volunteers pulled me somewhere else... When I tried to break free he just strengthened his grip... he began to speak German very loudly and slowly. Why do people believe that one can suddenly understand a foreign language as long as it's properly enuciated? I was to be registered and brought to a temporary shelter... They also talked about me as if I wasn't there: "Poor thing. She looks totally exhausted."

I started to panic... Again and again I tried to explain: "I am not a refugee!" Nobody listened. ... Desperately I thought "You idiots", then I said: "You fucking idiots!" Well I screamed it. But it helped.

Finally they were quiet. Finally they looked at me properly. ... I showed them my German ID. We apologized to each other.

... Worse, as a Turkish-German I had never been treated as well as on that day when they thought I was a Syrian refugee.

... I console myself with the knowledge that this love is just a passing fancy.



Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sun Sep 13th, 2015 at 09:27:34 AM EST
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Quite funny story, and right: people who enthusiastically go to central stations with teddy bears don't have to be convinced that refugees are people. They are convincing a lot of people to copy their teddy distributing behaviour and thus take visibly a stance, though. And both groups are setting a new normal. Suddenly the perception no longer is that there is a "flood" of millions coming. The perception is that there are exhausted families coming who have lost everything, even their kids' teddy bears. Human beings who need help.

Are you going to answer my other questions too? What would the left's reaction be, if we behaved with exactly the wisdom you want us to have? What do you want us to do, apart from stopping to distribute teddy bears?

by Katrin on Sun Sep 13th, 2015 at 10:06:10 AM EST
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The left has to get it in front of the problem instead of dwelling on the human interest romance. That will only get us so far. I linked to Alon Levy's blog post because it is very much relevant to the situation today. Immigration and asylum are de facto conflated because that is what's happening. Something that the legislation of the nineties was supposed to keep apart but is failing today. Most refugees will stay. Indeed most of the asylum seekers who have been denied still stay. We have an asylum system that is neither very humane nor very stringent. Likewise immigration is handled in a hotchpotch, non-transparent, and non-strategic way. The left has to find a workable alternative that doesn't scream 'Open borders for everyone' before the usual dark nativist dynamics set in. What's happening now will not work.

Also, even if it is received opinion that fences never work, fences will be built regardless and sometimes they do work (enough). So it's useless to harp on about them.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Sun Sep 13th, 2015 at 12:08:53 PM EST
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The left has to find a workable alternative that doesn't scream 'Open borders for everyone'

a strawman if ever there was one.

So it's useless to harp on about them.

And still you harp and harp and harp....

by IM on Sun Sep 13th, 2015 at 12:14:58 PM EST
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epochepoque:
The left has to find a workable alternative that doesn't scream 'Open borders for everyone' before the usual dark nativist dynamics set in.

Nobody is screaming that. Nobody is demanding open borders. What I demand is respect for the right to asylum. Must I really remind you that it is a human right? That there is no doubt that the Syrians who make it to us come from one of the most horrible war zones of the world? They are entitled to refuge. Are you demanding the abolishment of this human right? Alterations to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights? The Geneva Conventions? Do explain, please. Are these the demands that you want the left to make?

epochepoque:

Also, even if it is received opinion that fences never work, fences will be built regardless and sometimes they do work (enough)

Yes, the Iron Curtain was fairly efficient. Do you propose to re-erect it? Is making this proposal what you expect from the left? You think the left should demand all that?

by Katrin on Sun Sep 13th, 2015 at 12:25:15 PM EST
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I demand that those relief efforts are squared with the realities of limited resources so that as many people as possible can be helped and the people most in danger are prioritized. If you say that people from war zones are to be given refuge no limits -and we know there are millions of them- and since our 'European partners' don't have much appetite to share the responsibility then that is effectively an open border policy. At least for the upper- and middle-classes that according to what is said here can afford the trek.

Anyway, we're running in circles here (as usual in a leftwing debate club). Facts on the ground have overtaken the discussion and my pessimistic predictions are coming true. Germany has reintroduced border controls to Austria.

We can't do it after all - Süddeutsche

On Sunday the government made a spectacular u-turn and thereby admitted: "We can't do it after all." For the chancellor it is a political miscalculation that she had yet to commit during her ten years in office. For the nation it is the beginning of an intense political fight. And for Europe the message is: Germany has understood that it can't revolutionize the EU's asylum policy on its own.

... The collapse of the registration of refugees in Munich, the refusal of more solidarity even from other German states: the darwinism of impositions has reached Germany. The double morals that were diagnosed in the rest of Europe long ago have seized the country that created a mirage of a welcoming culture in the many refugee camps from Syria to Pakistan. No, Germany could not be open for everybody because the sheer number of refugees wouldn't have placed an excessive financial but a social burden on the country.

... [The border] controls therefore have a symbolic character. They are the German version of a message that France, the UK or Hungary are transmitting in some brutal form or another: we can't and don't want to shelter everyone. That is the hard lesson of the refugee crisis: heart and reason can't be brought in line.



Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sun Sep 13th, 2015 at 03:29:10 PM EST
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epochepoque:
If you say that people from war zones are to be given refuge no limits -and we know there are millions of them- and since our 'European partners' don't have much appetite to share the responsibility then that is effectively an open border policy.

Well, our European partners are just getting another overdose of partnership: the suspense of Schengen is nothing but pressure on them. It's not true that we "can't do it". We just want the solidarity of our dear Mediterranean partners, who surely can't have any reason to lean back and just watch the refugees go to Germany, right?

I am afraid, you have become a victim of scaremongery. Giving refuge to  those who flee war is not the same as open borders. UN researchers estimate that about 3 million Syrians will seek refuge in the EU in the medium term. Add to this Sudanese, Eritreans, and those whom our governments seem to hate most: Roma fleeing discrimination in the Balkan countries, and we are talking of about 5 million persons who have to be integrated into the EU of 500 million citizens. 85% of all refugees worldwide remain in developing, mostly very poor, countries, and it is a shame that Europeans show less solidarity with refugees than they do. And you expect that the left supports the unsolidaric way.

I note that you do not mention that granting refuge is not optional: you are advocating to abolish a human right. You are convinced that "there is not enough for all of us" and support a cap on human rights for financial reasons. Soory, your human rights for this year are used up. The same principle can (and will!) be applied to health care very soon, I guarantee you. And to pensions. And who demanded it? You. And you complain that a " leftwing debate club" doesn't follow you.

by Katrin on Sun Sep 13th, 2015 at 04:44:44 PM EST
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Democracy, human rights are cracked. Refugees or common EU citizen, they are just pest for the elites, no? They knew it all along what is coming, or what they started. "Integration" to harsher rat race for meager cheese is just fine for them. Whatever resource shortage, they will be the last to downsize.
by das monde on Mon Sep 14th, 2015 at 06:20:48 AM EST
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I demand that those relief efforts are squared with the realities of limited resources so that as many people as possible can be helped and the people most in danger are prioritized.

But at the moment we are far from resource limits for anything save rail transit. As far as I can see taking in about a million people would also only conflict with artificial limits like the Euro financial structure. Germany has what? 2 million empty flats? Also I would submit that the strength the far right can draw from refugees scales very weakly with their number since contact with refugees seems to actually decrease racism.

I'm still very pessimistic. While the wheels are definitely coming off the bullshit train our great leaders seem genuinely unable to deal with it. And in this case they usually default to short sighted misanthropy. Merkel opened the borders in a complete reversal of earlier policy since this was becoming a PR problem for her (#merkelstreichelt), now she reverses course again. All the while we hear about plans to bomb refugee boats, everyone involved in the Syrian war...
Local activism can only compensate for official incompetence up to a certain point. After that will become necessary to throw the European Council into Mount Doom.

by generic on Mon Sep 14th, 2015 at 11:18:18 AM EST
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Merkel's reversal was a sop to the CSU. And it is a typical non-action action: policemen say that the measures don't limit the refugee flow in practice (no one is turned back to Austria), it's just a waste of manpower for a political show.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 14th, 2015 at 02:35:46 PM EST
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