Previous wave of refugees casts a wary eye on the next | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 22.02.2016
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Previous wave of refugees casts a wary eye on the next

German residents with "migration background" often harbor resentment toward newly arrived refugees. Many of them or their families once had something to run from themselves.

War, destruction, escape - Darko Tolic has firsthand experience with all of it. When fighting between Serbs and Croats raged in his Bosnian hometown at the beginning of the 1990s, his Croatian father took then-5-year-old Tolic and his sister to live with their grandparents in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. Their father returned to Doboj to take part in the fighting; their mother remained in Germany: She was a nurse and quickly managed to find work in a hospital.

Kroatien Darko Tolic Politiker

Tolic is a refugee who speaks out against refugees

Tolic's family benefited from Germany's lack of skilled workers. When the war in Bosnia was over, they were not deported as the majority of Bosnian refugees were. Tolic is now 28 years old and a political activist in Stuttgart. He campaigns against refugees and migrants, especially those who don't come from Europe.

The onetime refugee has established the German branch of the extremist Autochthonous Croatian Party of Rights. In recent years, he openly supported German right-wing extremists such as the National Democratic Party (NPD), because they came closest to his worldview, he said. Tolic, who is nicknamed "the Croatian Crusader," said he wanted "to save Europe from extinction of the European peoples and increase of non-European peoples."

The Germans are naive, Tolic said: They are unable to recognize the dangers of unregulated immigration. To him, African or Asian migrants are "intruders, who take advantage of Europe's decadence." Tolic said such a state of affairs had to be addressed openly.

In Germany, far-right parties and neo-Nazi groups have attracted several people who had themselves arrived as refugees. Many come from the countries that made up the former Yugoslavia.

Take Dubravko Mandic, one of the "young savages" of Alternative for Germany (AfD). He once directed grossly racist remarks at US President Barack Obama. Mandic was born in Sarajevo. In the early 1990s, his father came to Germany to help Bosnian refugees integrate. Today, Mandic lambastes non-Germans and proudly affirms that the AfD differs "from the NPD predominantly due to our middle-class support environment, less so with respect to political content." Mandic, a lawyer in the city of Freiburg, turned down an interview with DW.

According to Friedrich Heckmann, a sociologist in the southern town of Bamberg, none of this is new: "Migrants, too, have their prejudices after all. They import them, and they develop them further here in Germany, vis-a-vis other migrant groups and also vis-a-vis the mainstream society." He said that in the 1990s many people from the former Soviet Union "brought with them very pronounced, predominantly anti-Muslim, prejudices." And, he said, established immigrant communities often harbor resentment against newer arrivals. This, Heckmann said, is common in the United States, as well; in the storied nation of immigrants, there are always immigrants calling for less immigration.

Deutschland Professor Dr. Friedrich Heckmann

Heckmann: "Established and new immigrants are vying for the same or similar resources"

'Even dead people'

In the 1990s, some Turks in Germany protested that the 4 million people of German ancestry who were "repatriated" from around Europe under a government program were receiving privileged status. Turks, they said, had had to work hard to make a livelihood, but the repatriates received everything on a silver plate: integration classes, financial aid, language courses, help with accommodation and furnishing - and German citizenship.

"At the time, we certainly had a migration crisis similar to the one we have at the moment," the sociologist Heckmann said. "In 1992, we had 1.5 million immigrants. There were acts of violence directed at migrants - there were severe arson attacks and even dead people. Gradually, the situation calmed down due to tightened asylum laws, which helped to reduce immigration." He added: "Established and new immigrants are vying for the same or similar resources."

Köln Pegida

A public display of xenophobia: Pegida demonstration in Cologne

One in five of Germany's approximately 80 million people have a "migration background," a complicated status generally held by migrants, their children and their grandchildren. According to a survey commissioned by the Sunday edition of the Welt newspaper and conducted at the end of 2015 by the YouGov polling institute, 40 percent of people with migration backgrounds believe that Germany should take in fewer refugees than it does currently, and 24 percent want the country to stop taking in refugees at all. In comparison, 45 percent of respondents without a migration background wanted to reduce the number of refugees and 25 percent said no more should be allowed.

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