Germany’s welcome to migrants wears thin as Cologne launches more festivities

German CarnivalGermany is preparing for Carnival Festivities/Neuwiser, Flickr

by Claire de Galembert, ENS Cachan – Paris-Saclay

Willkommenskultur, or “culture of acceptance”, has been a major part of the German political discourse since summer 2015. It evokes a spirit of solidarity towards the large number of migrants who have sought asylum in the European Union over the past year.

This commitment, together with the work of many volunteers to supplement state support for new arrivals, seemed to finally lift the shadows of Germany’s past – and almost made the world forget that it had long refused to consider itself a country of migration. The generosity seemed all the more spectacular with many of its neighbours being less than welcoming to new arrivals.

But the Germany of 2016 has a Willkommenskultur hangover. The country is in shock after the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne, a city that has long been a symbol of German multiculturalism. And now, as Cologne prepares for its annual carnival festivities, the city has doubled its police presence and increased video surveillance. A local girls’ school will close on the opening day of the carnival to protect its students.

This is unsurprising when we recall the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne, at least those that seem proven: women who came to the centre to watch the festivities were attacked by groups of men under the influence of alcohol, some of the men were described as of “Arab or North African origin” and some of them were asylum seekers.

The extent of the crimes was either little noticed or little admitted by the police, who initially described the evening as relatively peaceful. This optimistic assessment was quickly refuted by the exponential increase in complaints. By January 18, the total number of alleged crimes stood at 766, nearly half of which were sexual in nature, including three rapes. The head of police was suspended over his handling of the attacks.

‘We can do it’?

Willkommenskutur portrayed citizens as being ready to roll up their sleeves and take on the social and economic costs of integration of newcomers – estimated to be €50 billion by 2017. But it was far from universally felt in Germany. The continuous flow of arrivals, the difficulty of housing and integrating more than a million refugees, and disagreements within the EU over sharing the burden stoked scepticism within society at large, and among mainstream political parties. Meanwhile, the Islamophobic movement Pegida launched attacks on immigrants, both on social media (including the #raperefugee Twitter hashtag) and in the streets.

At a December meeting of the ruling CDU party, Angela Merkel received a long standing ovation after her speech on the refugees crisis, reaffirming her leadership within the party. But this has not stemmed the tide of complaints. Her mantra “Schaffen wir das!” (“We can do it!”) seemed to many to be more of an incantation than an expression of collective will.

The Cologne attacks have weakened the moral consensus that had formed around the Chancellor. And they were a godsend to Merkel’s critics, including the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland party. The events of New Year’s Eve fit perfectly with their preferred themes, particularly the link they draw between refugees and security, not to mention the difficulty of assimilating immigrants and the threat to Germany’s gender-equality standards.

Populist rhetoric

Beyond the rise of xenophobic violence, evidence of a shift in German attitudes is widespread. A regional mayor in Bavaria sent a group of immigrants by bus to Berlin to protest Germany’s asylum laws. In an interview, none other than former chancellor Gerhard Schröder asserted that Europe’s doors couldn’t be left open forever:

The capacity to take in, care for and integrate refugees in Germany is limited, not unlimited. Anything else is an illusion.

The unease has been felt even more strongly in other European countries. Germany’s willingness to meet the challenge of mass immigration through its Willkommenskultur has been unbearable for its neighbours. Many seized on the situation as evidence that they were right all along about the need to close Europe’s borders – and to call into question Merkel’s unilateral choice to open them. The prime minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, went so far as to say that “migrants cannot be integrated”.

Germany’s populist movements have their parallels elsewhere, from the National Front in France to Nigel Farage and UKIP in the UK and Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the United States. After the attacks, Trump went to Twitter in an attempt to link immigration and insecurity:

Ethical responsibility

But beyond the populists and xenophobes, signs are everywhere of a more difficult political climate. Not just the closing of borders, but also a hardening of tone – for example, a proposed law in Denmark would authorise the confiscation of refugees’ valuables. It’s a safe bet that the spreading appeal of anti-immigrant attitudes, once limited to the extreme right, will harm immigrants already living in Europe, especially Muslims.

The erosion of Willkommenskultur means Germany must leave behind the moral stance underpinning Angela Merkel’s position and return to the ethic of responsibility, as laid out in the work of German sociologist and philosopher Max Weber. This requires consideration not only of the economic capacity for absorbing such an immense wave of immigrants but also its social and political acceptability. Failing to do so risks aggravating the panic emerging in Germany and beyond.

But the ethic of responsibility doesn’t obviate the need to come up with a balanced European response to immigration that remains true to the rule of law – otherwise, the populist rhetoric will continue to have a wide appeal. Between the pitfalls of being insufficiently attentive to the concerns of a growing percentage of the German population and giving in to the diktats of the extreme right, the way forward is a narrow one, but it exists.

The Conversation

Claire de Galembert, Sociologue CNRS, ENS Cachan – Paris-Saclay

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Myanmar’s persecution of Rohingya Muslims is producing a ready supply of slaves

by Penny Green, Professor of Law and Globalisation, Queen Mary University of London; Alicia de la Cour Venning, ‎Research Associate, International State Crime Initiative, Queen Mary University of London, and Thomas MacManus, Research Fellow, Queen Mary University of London

A historic general election is about to take place in Myanmar, and hopes for transition to full democracy remain high. But there are already worrying signs.

In Rakhine state, the hardline Arakan National Party looks set to win a landslide in the country formerly known as Burma. That could mean a drastic escalation in a pattern of discrimination and violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims – a crisis that many observers have decried as genocidal.

Rohingya Woman in the RainOn the eve of the elections, human rights groups are imploring the UN to investigate possible acts of genocide against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, on which we at the International State Crime Initiative have just issued a report.

Continue reading

The rape of Nepalese maids and the Saudi ‘Criminal Diplomat’

The recent reports of two Nepalese maids, raped and illegally confined by Saudi Arabian Diplomat Majed Hassan Ashoor, clamour for justice and protection of migrant workers in India that are often subject to abuse and fraud.

The plight of Nepalese Migrant Workers

Punctuated with debilitating economy, millions of Nepalese travel to neighbouring countries like India, which has unrestricted entry for Nepalese nationals. In a bid to support their families, many unfortunate workers are often duped by human traffickers and land in unwanted circumstances. The dream selling of so-called unscrupulous agents begin to haunt these migrant workers that are stranded on the streets in a foreign country with nowhere to go while they often become ‘victims’ of violence and fraud. According to Nepalese Official data on average around two migrant workers die abroad each day with death toll topping 240 between January to April in 2014 alone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the newly discovered case of abuse of migrant workers, two Nepalese women were held at the luxurious residence of Saudi diplomat Majed Hassan Ashoor in the city of Gurgaon near New Delhi for several months until a non-governmental organisation flagged the issue and filed a complaint against alleged rape and confinement. The police rescued the women from the residence and they were sent back to Nepal later. Meanwhile, the diplomat also left India with his family flying the flag of Saudi Arabia, I presume.

A case of diplomatic inviolability?

Why was diplomat not arrested against the crime which challenge women across the world and in India in particular where rape unfortunately occurs so very often? According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Article 41, the consular in the receiving State enjoys various perks and privileges as stated in the convention and the Article 41.1: ‘Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trail, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by competent judicial authority.’

Without doubt rape is a ‘grave crime’ which hurts women physically, mentally, socially, culturally and subsequently also economically. Therefore, it is necessary to protect and safeguard women in vulnerable conditions such as these Nepalese women who left their homes and families for a ‘better’ life in India. Being a foreigner in a hostile atmosphere even further puts you at the fringes of vulnerability.

The Nepalese Ambassador in New Delhi, Deep Upadhyay told reporters that the case should be pursued even if the diplomat had left the country. ‘The victims must get justice’ said Mr Upadhyay.

What churns my stomach most is the silence and denial of Saudi government against the case in question. The sudden ‘exit’ of its criminal diplomat coupled with Saudi government claim about the case being ‘baseless’ reeks of underhand ‘deal’ between Saudi Arabia and India which was also echoed by former Indian Secretary Maharaj Krishna who dubbed the departure of criminal diplomat as ‘solution arrived at through mutual consultation’.

 The victims must get justice

Diplomats are ambassadors of a state, a well sought after public service, they are an embodiment of trust, respect and honour in any receiving country. However, for the case in point, beyond the veneer of International convention and diplomatic inviolability lies the pernicious abuse of power and lust, preying at the weak and drawn out existences of these women who for better lives, left their country to feed and support their families back home. Unknown to the future perils in the foreign land, they among others are often hoodwinked, abused, confined, assaulted and often murdered by those who in their big cars flying the flag of their state kill them – like flies in the hands of wanton boys.

A rape is a rape is a rape is a rape! The dignity of women should be protected and the criminal should be prosecuted by the law of the land. The Saudi Government must take a stand and prosecute its criminal beyond the state politics since everyone should be equal before law regardless of a rank or hierarchy.  Equally India as a host nation must act responsibly and protect the rights of the migrant workers who help spin the economic wheel of their country and must provide them a safer atmosphere in a much needed dignified way.

Shahid Khan is the viceShahidkhan-chairperson of Global Minorities Allliance http://www.globalminorities.co.uk. He can be reached on twitter @shahidshabaz