We recently asked TAM students, who are or have recently been in Europe and Turkey, to comment on what types of refugee situations they have witnessed. The small details involved in daily life are often missing from the mainstream news reports. As always, the TAM students did not disappoint and responded with a host of fascinating insights. Please read their comments below:
From TAM student Michelle Offik in Berlin:
The reports in Germany on the TV and in print media have been saturated with news on the refugee crisis the last few weeks, and a topic of priority since I moved here in January. There seems to be in general a big “help culture” in Berlin. “Give Something Back to Berlin” offers a good example of an organization people can visit when they first arrive. In the Berliner Morgenpost for my neighborhood there was an article two weeks ago detailing where in town you could volunteer to help the refugees and donate clothing and other items. Additionally, there have been protests in solidarity with refugees and against groups like Pegida on a fairly regular basis. A map on Deutsche Welle nicely compares the two. I observed a massive demonstration of students a few months ago on Friedrichstraße. This was right after the Mediterranean crisis in the Spring.
At the conversational level I find most discussions center around two issues: (i) the concern that Chancellor Merkel and the coalition are not taking into consideration enough the long-term effects and costs when opening the borders (both monetarily and “culturally”) and (ii) the need for other EU states to accept some of the refugees in order to relieve the German system of the increased burden. These sentiments are from Germans and non-Germans (other EU citizens) alike. Broadcast media (ZDF, ARD) have interviewed the integration course teachers a few times when discussing the need for funding from BAMF (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge) and how the newcomers are progressing at learning the German language, for example.
I saw a comedy sketch on Das Erste last week that had a very biting critique of other EU countries and their lack of solidarity with Germany in dealing with the crisis from a humanitarian standpoint. The most harsh critique was against Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister. They also had a critique segment arguing against the claim in Germany that there is not enough money to support all the new refugees (they pointed out the cost of some new trash cans in a German town cost the city something like 2,000 Euro per can.) The clip start at minute 4:00 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIqLeUGcbls
This topic will likely continue to dominate the news as people continue entering the EU and Germany at such high rates. Even after other topics start to appear in the news again, how the EU and Germany handle the influx this year will be a very critical piece of any future policy discussions centering around asylum politics, migration policy, and the debate about the EU’s ability to enforce its humanitarian principles in practice.
Explanation of photos:
“JanProtest” – “Refugees Welcome” flag from an anti-Pegida protest I observed in January in Nikolaivierel. This was my second day in the country. I two blocks down on Spandauer St. at the time. Here is an article with some background.
“Xberg Sign” – This was near the second place I lived, in the back part of a building on Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg. Here are two short descriptions of the Berlin-Kreuzberg movement.
“DemoFried.” – from the demonstration I mentioned above. I was on the S-bahn train platform and the crowd came through the main street. On the platform many people started clapping with the crowd and waving.