More than one million refugees came to Germany in 2015, the majority fleeing from Syria’s civil war and others coming from the Balkan states, Afghanistan, Iraq and northern Africa. How should the trade unions respond to the ‘refugee crisis’ amidst a swing to the right in the public debate?
The current debate in Germany
The public debate is mainly concerned with the so-called ‘refugee crisis’, an expression which suggests that refugees are to blame for the economic crisis and the rising social inequality in Germany and Europe. The ‘Iron Chancellor’ Angela Merkel has now come under serious attack, from the right wing within her own government coalition, although she is herself responsible for tightening the asylum laws. The Federal Ministry of the Interior reports that fewer than half of asylum seekers have been awarded political asylum (Bundesministerium des Innern, 2016).
Pegida, a right wing political movement whose name translates as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamification of the West, has organised weekly rallies all over Germany for more than a year. Among other things, they call for Germany’s borders to be closed and for asylum seekers to be deported. Meanwhile, a wave of right-wing terror swept across Germany last year, involving hundreds of arson attacks against refugee facilities and countless assaults on migrants.