In mid-2015, every single mainstream national media outlet in Germany formed themselves voluntarily into a phalanx of pro-Merkel propaganda organs. They ran huge headlines announcing 'Refugees Welcome!', uncritically relayed propaganda claims that migrants were well-educated and would rescue Germany's economy, insisted on labeling all migrants 'refugees', and spewed venom at anyone who dared spoil the party atmosphere.
Giovanni di Lorenzo, editor of the weekly Die Zeit, frankly admits this in this recent interview. The mood all over the press landscape was firmly pro-refugee, he says, and newspapers routinely stepped over the line into open advocacy of the German government's policy. He includes his own paper in this indictment. He admits that skeptical voices were ignored, and that the German press inflicted lasting damage on its own credibility by openly embracing and cheerleading for the current governing elite. He says the mood in various editorial offices only began to change on a deeper level after New Years' Eve in Cologne.
This comes as no surprise to those of us who politely declined the Kool-Aid™, but still, di Lorenzo deserves credit for stating obvious truths that many other media bigwigs still haven't acknowledged.
As Orwell once said, "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."
Learning German is the key to successful integration, goes the platitude. Unlike many platitudes, this one is probably accurate and relevant. But what peddlers of magic pixie dust don't mention, often because they don't know it themselves, is that learning German is extremely difficult, and, for many people, impossible.
This is because learning any foreign language to proficiency or above as an adult is simply beyond the capabilities of most uneducated people. Period. Final. Add to that the fact that migrants to Germany from the Arab world are often marginally literate themselves, must struggle with an unfamiliar alphabet, and, as this documentary points out, are confronted with dozens of other challenges and distractions as they attempt to adapt to life in Germany.
There is no hopeful 'but' to add here: people with low levels of education and academic ability in their native countries will be unable to learn anything but a few necessary phrases of German. Ever. Just as they will never be able to solve a quadratic equation or learn to play the saxophone.
Adult migrants often struggle to learn the language of their new country. In receiving societies, this is widely seen as evidence that migrants are lazy, lack the required will power or, worse, actively resist learning the new language as an act of defiance towards their new community.
Unfortunately, most of those who point the finger at migrant language shirkers vastly underestimate the effort involved in language learning. The consensus in applied linguistics is that language learning takes a long time and that the precise duration and final outcome as measured in proficiency level are almost impossible to predict. How long it takes to learn a new language as an adult depends on many factors, most of which are outside of the control of an individual language learner, such as age, level of education, aptitude, teaching program, language proximity, or access to interactional opportunities....
The list could go on and on. The general point is that your success at language learning is related to who you are and which hand you have been dealt in life.
The factors listed above – age, prior education, socioeconomic status, gender, race, religion, luck – are by and large outside the control of the individual. What second language learning research shows above all is that learning another language is not an easy feat. It requires a considerable investment of resources and it makes a huge difference whether you are learning in a supportive community or one that rejects you. The ultimate outcome of second language learning efforts is not purely an act of willpower or the result of the learner’s personal choices.
A Canadian friend sends me this op-ed from the Globe and Mail with a hearty endorsement:
Fortunately our policy makers ... know that support for immigration is highly conditional, and that the social contract with the public can easily be broken.
What is that contract? People want immigration policy to serve the national interest, not the immigrants’ interest. They want skilled immigrants who have something to offer Canada, who work hard, learn one of our official languages and won’t be a burden on the welfare state. Immigrants who have already settled here are among the first to agree.
People don’t sour on immigration for economic reasons. As a recent Wall Street Journal article pointed out, they sour on immigration if they feel it is a threat to national identity. Nor is race a big factor. The biggest factors are culture and assimilation. People want immigrants who will embrace our values – Western liberal values – of tolerance, inclusion and women’s equality. We also expect newcomers to put down roots and pledge their loyalty to Canada first. (If they embrace hockey, so much the better.)
Europe is in crisis because too much European immigration doesn’t look anything like this. The British ran into trouble because they’ve had too much immigration, too fast. Countries that can’t control their borders always face a backlash.
...Australia solved its border problem by diverting asylum-seekers to remote offshore processing camps. Humanitarians and refugee advocates are outraged, but Australians aren’t. They must be doing something right – Australia, like Canada, is among the most successful immigration countries in the world. About 28 per cent of Australians are foreign-born, according to the Pew Research Center.
When a boatload of Tamils arrived in Canadian waters in 2010, the Harper government detained them (some were eventually accepted as refugees), and the public heartily approved. This was widely taken as a sign that Canadians are racist. In fact, we’re no more racist than the Australians or the English. We simply think it should be up to us to choose who gets in.
As I've said many times, neither this blog nor its author is anti-immigrant. The questions, as always, are How many? Which ones? It would probably be a good thing if Germany simply copied Canada's immigration policy. Literally translate the laws into German, and be done with it. If Germany did that, it would soon begin attracting capable, talented immigrants who have the intellectual and cultural qualities that will enable them to adapt quickly to German society. Soon, they will begin finding and creating jobs.
Instead, Germany seems perversely dedicated to inviting huge numbers of immigrants who lack any of the prerequisites for successful integration. They will enter the social-welfare system, and many will never leave. The ones who do leave will compete with working-class Germans for low-skilled jobs, sparking rage and resentment. This is the worst immigration policy imaginable. It will drive ever-deeper wedges into German society, and will permanently associate immigration with crime and dependency in the minds of German voters. It will also lead to crumbling support for the welfare state.
This policy continues to be supported by the delusional belief that there are no significant cultural differences between potential immigrants -- that there is essentially no way to determine whether any immigrant is likely to adapt successfully to life in Germany. Therefore, it is impermissible to discriminate among potential immigrants -- inviting the ones who are likely to succeed, and keeping the others out. Although just about every other nation on earth (like Canada) agrees that this kind of selection is possible and is in fact essential to sound immigration policy, large sections of the German political elite cling to the opposite belief.
The idea that there is something wrong with choosing among immigrants is one of the most dangerous political delusions shared by the German political class. Fortunately, the number of people in power who believe this seems to be dwindling every day. I will keep blogging occasionally about the issue until it dwindles to a tiny fringe belief, and Germany finally abandons its dangerous Sonderweg and adopts an adult immigration policy.
That may take a while, but progress is slow and steady. To paraphrase something Churchill once said about the US, Germany always does the right thing -- after trying everything else first.
We all love the Internet, and not just platonically, but it does have its unsavory corners. No, I'm not talking about Pornhub, I'm talking about those videos offering us Moral Improvement™ in the form of 90 seconds of manipulative piffle.
Let's take this example, showing a somewhat dusky-complected 6-year-old child actor on the streets of Tbilisi.
First, she's dressed in shabby clothing. Everyone ignores her. Then, they dress her up in nice clothes, and people intervene to ask where her mother is, if she needs help, etc. They totally ignore a precious, beautiful, pure, innocent, doe-eyed six-year-old girl angel as if she didn't exist, based solely on the fact that she's not dressed nicely.
Conclusion: people -- in this case Georgians -- are monsters.
Damn you, Georgians! Damn you all to hell!
Black-hearted hell-hound that I am, though, I cannot seem to take the moral message to heart, even though it's so superficial simple. Twin demons of Skepticism and Worldly Experience bar the way.
For those readers who don't live in large European cities, let me explain. Everywhere large numbers of people gather -- tourist attractions, train stations, outdoor events, etc. -- you will see many children looking exactly like the one in the video. Dusky complexions, shabby clothes, the whole nine yards. And yes, people will generally avoid and ignore them.
This is because these are gypsy child beggars. And many aren't just beggars, they're thieves as well. How do I know this? Because I personally have been robbed by them twice. Once in Cologne, once in Piraeus.
In fact, I actually wasn't robbed by them in Piraeus, but that's only because I literally kept swatting them away. I was waiting in line for a ferry which had a one-hour delay. A group of 4-5 Roma beggar children were moving up and down the line, snaking in and out between groups of passengers. Some were begging, some were staging diversions, and some were trying to snake their little hands into travelers' bags. People with hard-sided suitcases were relatively safe, but backpacks were much more tempting targets. Two children surrounded my backpack, constantly probing the sides for hard objects, trying unzip pockets and reach under flaps.
They literally paid no attention to me. I shoved them away, and they simply came right back. This lasted for 15 minutes. Only when I began shouting at them, which drew attention, did they finally move on to the next guy. Eventually, a police officer appeared, and they drew back somewhat. He immediately divined what I was shouting about. The guy spoke some English. I asked him why they didn't do something about them. "Eh," he said, "we'd like to, but there are just so many of them, and we don't have enough manpower. Same thing is happening at all the docks. If you make eye contact, they beg. If you have a soft bag, they try to get inside it. Either way, they just keep trying until they get something. They have nothing else to do, and if they don't come back with enough at the end of the day, their boss beats them. Sometimes their boss is their parents. My advice -- get a hard-sided suitcase."
Deciding to play the naive American, I asked whether they shouldn't be in school. "Sure they should, but we have no idea where these ones live. They always run away from us, and even if we catch them, they don't speak Greek or English. They're gypsies, that's what makes a gypsy a gypsy. Their parents are all illiterate, they don't care about school, they just want quick money. They've been living like this for hundreds of years. There are some gypsies who are decent people, but there's lots of them who live from sending their children out begging, and there's nothing we can do about it. Sometimes we raid the camps and register the children, but if we try to force them to enroll in school, almost all of them just move on. A couple stay, though, so there's some progress."
The guy seemed eager to practice his English, and both myself and the rest of the people in line wanted to keep him nearby, since the ferry was nowhere in sight, and he was keeping the Dickensian urchins at bay. I asked him whether they could be taken away from their parents if their parents were proven to be involved in sending them out begging and keeping them out of school. "Nope. We usually can't even determine who the parents are. They often don't have any documents they're willing to show us, they're usually illiterate, and often there's nobody in the entire family who speaks Greek or English, and definitely nobody who's willing to speak it with a cop.
"You can't terminate parental rights if you can't prove who the parents even are. And even then, you're not supposed to take Roma kids away from their culture. Although frankly, if you ask me, if this is Roma culture I say it's not worth saving. There are plenty of Greek families who can't have kids or who have room for one more. These kids could be learning Greek, learning to read, eating properly, going to school, going to the doctor, learning to play sports and finally getting a job and supporting themselves. I'm not going to say they could be going to Church because I'm a Communist. But still, this is no life for anybody."
So I bet if you asked the people in the UNICEF video above, they would say: "I asked them to remove the girl from the restaurant because we have a lot of Roma beggar children here who do exactly what she was doing, snaking between the tables, stealing anything they can find. They are a terrible nuisance we deal with every day. I feel sorry for the children, but they do not want and will not accept assistance, that's not why they're here. Giving to them supports criminal gangs who exploit children. I give to charities that provide meaningful help."
And as much as that 120-second video wants me to think otherwise, I think that's a perfectly fair, rational, and humane response.
This is a young German guy who, by his own information, studies computer science. Let's call him Udo. When huge numbers of migrants began arriving in 2015, he decided to volunteer to help some of them learn German and navigate German society. After negative experiences with the first two migrants he was assigned to help, he was then assigned to a young Syrian man in his early 20s. Let's call the Syrian guy Halil.
Udo's task was to spend time one-on-one with Halil, teaching him about Germany, helping him with bureaucratic stuff, and generally hanging out. Udo went to restaurants and the movies with Halil, helped him with German, and talked to him for hours about his legal case and his background.
In the video, starting at abour 12:00, Udo describes the experiences with Halil that left him fully disillusioned and led him to stop volunteer work. Here's my summary of the main points in English.
Halil was first registered as a refugee in Italy, and was supposed to be deported back there under existing EU law. Halil hired a lawyer, who won the case and got him a permit to stay in Germany. He then sent Halil a bill for €600. Halil was "outraged" that he was expected to pay for the lawyers' services, because after all, he had won the case.
When Udo told Halil that he, Udo, was an atheist, Halil was stunned, and his reaction was somewhat menacing. He said of course there was only one God, Allah, and everyone should believe in him. Halil thought it was a miracle Udo was "still alive" because God would not protect atheists. Halil drinks and smokes.
Halil said he believes nobody in Germany has to work, they get free money from the government. He said this is a common belief in Syria, and that is why many people are coming. When Udo explained this is not the case, Halil refused to believe him. Udo found it remarkable that in the age of the Internet, Halili had never bothered to try to find out whether this bizarre rumor was true or not.
Back in Syria, Halil was was the 'ass' of the family, his father bossed him around and forced him to run errands. They sent him to get the free money in Germany because he didn't seem to have much of a promising life ahead of him. When asked directly by Udo, Halil said his family had no problems in Syria, and that they were not going to try to follow him because "they're doing OK" there.
Halil claimed that he had studied, computer science. Udo was thrilled to hear this, and said "That's great news! Germany needs people like you, with skills. You could have a great future here." But when Udo, who studies computer science himself, actually questioned Halil, it turned out he was completely ignorant on the subject. Either standards in Syria are incredibly low, Udo decided, or Halil had simply told him a bare-faced lie ("knallhart gelogen"). Udo tends to think the latter.
Halil said there was drug dealing in the migrant shelter every night. Nobody has ever been arrested for it, and Halil assumed it was either not against the law, or tolerated. When Udo told him it was against the law, Halil became frightened of being arrested. The migrant shelter is right next to a middle school. Udo said it made him angry to learn that there was an active drug market in the migrant shelter right next to a middle school, and that the police were had done nothing. Udo thought the "rumors" about migrant selling drugs were "right-wing propaganda", but no longer believes this.
The straw that broke the camel's back, according to Udo, was when Halil reacted with rage to an official letter saying that he should begin looking for an apartment, which would be funded by the state, but that he should limit himself to under 50 square meters (538 square feet). He protested: "How can I live in a place that small?" Udo, being a student, lives in a 23-square-meter apartment, and must pay for it himself. Udo said he fould Halil's demanding attitude so frustrating that he called up the volunteer service and withdrew from the program.
Udo concludes by noting that he continues to be sympathetic to refugees and to treat each case on its own merits. However, the media "have not shown" many of the less-appealing sides of the issue. From his own personal experience, he now believes many of the things that he used to consider right-wing lies and propaganda are true.
On his YouTube page Udo has turned off comments, because there was so much nastiness from all sides. I have to say I think what he did takes courage, and I appreciate it. Udo mockery will not be tolerated in the comments here, either.
I have one comment about Halil being the "ass" of the family. I get the strong impression that this is extremely common among migrants. The stories of migrants who appear to have mental problems (low cognitive ability and non-existent impulse control) are legion. Some have burned down their own shelters, many commit crimes on impulse and don't even bother to flee, they get blind drunk on alcohol and engage in all sorts of antisocial behavior. And this doesn't even count the tens of thousands of career petty criminals. There are, by now, thousands, of reports of sexual assaults by migrants. The same goes for migrants on trains or buses who begin staring at a female, then expose their penises and masturbate.
In a crowded train car.
That sort of behavior is not normal anywhere. Which leads me to believe that when families are deciding which young male to send off at to get a job -- or free money -- in Germany, they are likely to send the young men who are "touched in the head". After all, if you have four sons, and three of them are gainfully employed or already fathers, but one has never fit in and causes you constant trouble, who are you going to send off to the West to cast an anchor on the shores of paradise? You send off the Halils. After all, there are no special education classes or government programs for the mentally challenged in most Arab countries. If Halil leaves, your family gets rid of a troublemaker who costs money and constantly threatens the family honor, and in return you get a chance to relocate to Germany. From their perspective, it's win-win.
As I have been pointing out for some time now, there's only one workable answer to the coming African migration 'crisis': Europe must intercept all migrant boats in the Mediterranean and immediately return them to their place of origin. No exceptions. This is the Australian policy. Austria's foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz, broke the taboo two days ago (g) and said boats must be intercepted and people returned (after a brief on-the-spot asylum hearing). Other European politicians are still in denial about this fact, wasting time in virtue-signaling, but they will eventually have to buckle under and accept reality.
Typically, what happens now is smugglers pack a boat full of all the migrants that fit. Then they add 20% more, and send it off. The boats don't even have a destination. The migrants wait until they are in international waters, and then send an SOS signal. At that point, they are intercepted by European ships and brought to European territory to file asylum claims. This foolish policy is a pull-factor that has encouraged millions of Africans to pack their bags and bribe smugglers. There are now something like 800,000 migrant waiting in North Africa to board rickety boats.
If they are all brought ashore in Italy, this will be a crisis of unimaginable proportions. Italy is already a country with massive problems, and is already dealing with hundreds of thousands of African migrants sleeping rough, working illegally, committing petty crimes, and dealing drugs. Adding 800,000 new unskilled illegal migrants might well push Italy over the brink into -- well, it's hard to say, but it will be ugly. And trust me, those 800,000 migrants are all going to stay in Italy. No other European country will take them, except perhaps a token contingent for Germany. Austria has already announced it will monitor its border with Italy to prevent passage north. Italy and the EU have been locked in fruitless negotiations for months about what to do with the migrants.
Italy's other plan is to address the so-called 'root causes' of migration (g) by helping African governments better protect their borders and intercept migrants on the way north. In return, Europe will establish asylum processing centers in Africa and open up legal means of immigration to Europe. This is as far as the center-left Renzi government can go. But like the EU's agreement with Turkey, this silly plan outsources Europe's immigration policies to repressive, corrupt, and/or ineffectual states. The whole world asks why Europe should do this instead of simply securing its own borders effectively.
Other countries have long since grasped the nettle. Not only do they reject all illegal boat migrants, they openly announce that they are doing so, and explain why:
As the United States' primary maritime law enforcement agency, the Coast Guard is tasked with enforcing immigration law at sea. The Coast Guard conducts patrols and coordinates with other federal agencies and foreign countries to interdict undocumented migrants at sea, denying them entry via maritime routes to the United States, its territories and possessions. Thousands of people try to enter this country illegally every year using maritime routes, many via smuggling operations. Interdicting migrants at sea means they can be quickly returned to their countries of origin without the costly processes required if they successfully enter the United States.
When successful, illegal immigration can potentially cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars each year in social services. In addition to relieving this financial burden on our citizens, the Coast Guard's efforts help to support legal migration systems. Primarily, the Coast Guard maintains its humanitarian responsibility to prevent the loss of life at sea, since the majority of migrant vessels are dangerously overloaded, unseaworthy or otherwise unsafe.
The US, like Australia, unapologetically protects its own interests, and defends its policy as more humane than any alternative.
But then, of course, the United States is notoriously hostile to refugees. Right?
Wrong. UN Dispatch places the US in the top four countries worldwide for refugee resettlement:
The United States. Influenced by its political and military position regarding conflict in Syria, the U.S. has not favorably made the news on the current refugee crisis, offering to resettle only approximately 10,000 Syrian refugees. Yet looking holistically at its system reveals a sunnier picture of U.S. refugee policy. The United States permanently resettles more refugees than any other country in the world, historically taking half of all applications received via the UN Refugee Agency. Last year, this amounted to about 70,000 refugees worldwide who, for the most part, were living in limbo in the country to which they fled. The USA may not be a viable option for Syrian refugees, but large numbers of refugees from elsewhere are routinely resettled in the USA.
It's simple: if you bribe a smuggler, cram yourselves into boats, and try to sneak into the country illegally, you will be summarily rejected (except for Cubans, but that's changing as we speak). If you comply with the law, cooperate with international organizations, and can actually prove you as an individual face severe persecution, we will resettle you.
It's called setting the right incentives. And it's not only a reasonable policy choice, but by far the best one. All you have to do is give up a few sentimental illusions. But boy, do Europeans love those.
Since Europe can't or won't secure its external borders, it's begging Turkey to do something, anything, to reduce the flow of migrants. In return, Turkey is demanding billions of Euros and -- much more importantly -- the ability for Turkish citizens to travel to Germany without visas (g). A German CSU politician is saying this is insane.
Why? Let's do the math. There are currently 16 million Turkish citizens of Kurdish descent in Turkey. There is a long history of discrimination by Turkish governments against this ethnic minority, including torture, forced displacement, and other repressive measures. The current conservative-nationalist Turkish government is fighting an open war against various Kurdish rebel groups, both inside and outside Turkey.
This means that under German law as it is currently being applied by the ruling coalition in the real world (not German law on the books), there are probably something like 5-8 million Turkish Kurds who might have a plausible claim for asylum or subsidiary protection. That's just a guess, the real number could be higher, but probably not much lower.
If visa requirements are lifted completely, each of these persons could buy a cheap plane ticket to any German airport, utter the word 'asylum', and trigger a years-long judicial process with a good chance of ending in a residency permit.
How many would actually do this? Who knows? But it could be quite a lot, given that:
There are already 800,000 Kurds living in Germany right now. As migration researchers know, existing kin networks in a destination country massively increase the likelihood and scope of migration,
Life even on the lowest rungs of German society is much safer, more comfortable, and more prosperous than life in the parts of Turkey where most Kurds live, and
The nationalist, authoritarian Turkish government would probably be overjoyed to see millions of members of this restive minority group leave forever. Ankara will probably offer them free plane tickets and a 'good riddance' bonus.
Any politician who proposes lifting visa restrictions on travel from Turkey needs to answer the following questions:
How many Kurds will come and claim asylum? Are you sure it's only going to be X million? Didn't you say in February 2015 that Germany would only get 350,000 migrants by the end of 2015?
Are you aware that violence between Kurds and Turks in Germany is already routine (g)? Do you seriously believe that the arrival of, say, 2 million new Kurds in Germany will not escalate this problem?
Since Turkish Kurds are likely to arrive speaking no German and with limited job skills, just like current migrants, where is the extra 60-70 billion Euro/ year going to come from to provide them all with housing, food, welfare, medical care, education and German courses?
And finally, the most important, most fundamental, most urgent question of all:
Why should a peaceful, stable, prosperous country like Germany import from some remote corner of some faraway land a violent ethnic conflict which has nothing whatsoever to do with Germany and which 98% Germans do not understand or care about?
"Tom, museum curator and expert in Renaissance jewelry, doesn’t think his boyfriend Peter is 'The One.' Peter is perfectly happy with Tom, but Tom is obsessed with the artist Benedetto Emilio Nesci—exciting, passionate, extraordinarily talented… and dead for over 400 years.
Tasked with researching a bejeweled codpiece, Tom abandons his professional ethics—and his sanity—to try on the codpiece and is transported halfway around the world and back in time, right into Florence, Italy and Nesci’s workroom."