The current catch phrase in Germany is “Wir schaffen es.” (We can do this). The broad use of the personal pronoun ‘we,’ should be interpreted in the sense of Queen Victoria’s, “We are not amused,” (although she probably never said it). The ‘We,’ is called the ‘Majestic Plural’. Also known as the ‘Royal We,’ it dates from a time when the king/queen, believed God had signed a chit, allowing them to do whatever they fancied. Perhaps, it retains some of that sentiment.
The ‘Royal We’ means, “I have just decided for you.” When Mutti Merkel says, “Wir schaffen es,” she means, “I’ve decided, and you are going to deliver.”
When she said Germany would offer asylum to genuine refugees, (currently around a million this year), she demonstrated, (a) her heart was in the right place and (b) she had no idea of the chaos and resentment that would follow. Has she visited LAGeSo in Berlin? That is the welfare department responsible for processing the 20000 applications with which Berlin expects to deal. Apparently, it is chaotic, with employees flipping out and using racist language. Very few applicants speak German or English. Once processed, they are told where to get a roof over their heads, either in Berlin or elsewhere. If Berlin, they can be given a map and a bus ticket. If elsewhere, they must depend on the good will of bus/train personnel, and members of the public, who will also have to supply the money for another ticket at the other end.
Without public intervention, nothing will work.
At a recent symposium called It can be done differently at the Heimathafen in Neukölln, a group of three health workers reported:
- 1/3 of women arriving in Berlin are pregnant. In a city already short of midwives, volunteers are providing extra-unpaid shifts.
- Many need treatment for over-exposure to sunlight and seawater. You can’t get treatment without insurance or a German national to fix it through their insurance.
- Some have untreated sores, going down to the bone.
- Africans have often walked thousands of kilometres. On film, an interviewed Cameroonian woman described her journey as, “Good so far. I haven’t been raped.” Does that explain the high pregnancy rate? No one asked.
- Volunteers showed how they turned an uninhabitable room in the disused Tempelhof airport buildings, into a safe play area for toddlers – in five days. There are 4000 refugees in screened off squares in four airport hangers. The play area can’t be adequate, nor can the sanitary arrangements.
- People adopt an asylum seeker, which means reading their mail for them, and accompanying the refugee on interviews if things are not moving forward.
- Berlin families are taking Syrian families into their homes until accommodation can be found. When a flat is found, they have to guarantee to pay the rent and probably pay the first two months up-front and the deposit, until Social Services can catch up. They do that to get the women and children out the hangers.
This all adds up to a lot of community care by unpaid workers, who are paying any day-to-day bills, from their own pockets. There were many moans about the problems, but no one suggested Mrs Merkel should have left the refugees on the beaches of Greece, in the freezing mud of the Balkans, or turned them away from German borders. She made only one mistake. She believed the other governments in Europe.
Here is a quote from an EU press release;
Last September MEPs backed two emergency proposals to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers from EU countries hit hardest by the arrivals of new migrants. However, so far only 272 people have been relocated to other member states. “All member states have to play the game,” said Avramopoulos, stressing that EU countries should not become prisoners of domestic political agendas. (Article – Immigration − 14-01-2016 – 16:57)
And what is Mrs. Merkel going to do with over a million refugees? She knows that Germany has a severe skills shortage. Parts of the old East Germany and some bits of the West have become depopulated – beautiful houses with no value. German owners still have to pay the bills even if they can’t occupy them. A million migrants will soon disappear into that landscape and economically revive it. Let’s hope Mutti Merkel got her chit signed by God.
The fictional Hotel Neukölln is at the centre of my new novel The Last Stop, a modern-day Berlin story about the underdog fighting back.