Opinion: Germany stands alone on the issue of refugees | News | DW | 07.09.2015
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Opinion: Germany stands alone on the issue of refugees

Germany sees itself as a shining example of how to deal with refugees. But abroad, more critical voices can be heard - and rightly so, says DW's Christoph Hasselbach.

It was moving to watch Germans jubilantly receiving thousands of refugees who arrived in the country via Hungary and Austria just this weekend. Refugees are being greeted with warmth and assistance throughout the country – something they missed on their long journeys. Elsewhere, they were tolerated as travelers passing through - at best - and then quickly sent on their way. The German chancellor now says, "We can do it." Many Germans are proud – and justifiably so. The refugee crisis has given rise to something like a new German patriotism based on how the country almost single-handedly, despite adversity, has become the savior of many hundreds of thousands of humans.

That's the view from inside. The view from the outside often differs greatly, as many people in the rest of Europe observe the Germans' behavior with incomprehension, and not admiration. Moreover, the past weeks have seen many opinions from abroad, on the website dw.com as well, expressed along the lines of, "The Germans have lost all sense of measure; they go from one extreme to another." A culture of welcome in which everybody is taken in without hesitation or restrictions strikes many people in the rest of Europe as uncanny.

Germany is unique

The question at hand is certainly not whether civil war refugees should be accepted in the first place; that is obvious. Rather, it is about a loss of control, a complete renunciation of imposing any form of guidance or restrictions on the growing influx of people - a renunciation that the Germans are tolerating, or perhaps even deliberately allowing. This is what sets Germany apart from the others. Governments from London, to Warsaw, Riga, Prague and Budapest are saying: If Germans are really that crazy, then we won't have any of it!

Christoph Hasselbach

DW's Christoph Hasselbach

There is no place in the world you can enter without permission and decide to live in – except Germany in the past few weeks. And that affects other countries. Hungarians and Austrians complain that Berlin is responsible for attracting the influx, while at the same time asking the transit countries to follow the Dublin rules and take care of the refugees. And the British fear that some of the refugees in Germany will later try to relocate to Great Britain. If the newcomers obtain German and thus EU citizenship, they would have every right to do so owing to the freedom of movement within the bloc. The handling of the refugee crisis makes British withdrawal from the EU more probable, and that is no trifle.

Long-term consequences are at stake

Germans should listen to the much-criticized British in matters of integration, as the island nation is much more experienced in this field. Is it a coincidence that a great majority of the British view another wave of immigration critically? The German debate seems to revolve solely around the logistics of handling the masses, and no one seems to be asking questions about the long-term integration of the refugees.

But this is the real challenge: Is German society ready and willing for such a fundamental upheaval, one that will touch all aspects of peoples' lives? It is important to know that the experiment cannot be terminated, even if it fails. That means, decisions are being made today that will have repercussions for generations. And even those who do not regulate what is happening, like the Germans at the moment, are still taking decisions nonetheless. It is time to take control again.

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