Anti-Immigrant Prejudice

Refugees Have Fears Too

Ein Feuerwehrfahrzeug steht am 21.02.2016 in Bautzen (Sachsen) vor einem brennenden Haus. In einer geplanten Flüchtlingsunterkunft war in der Nacht zu Sonntag ein Feuer ausgebrochen. Foto: Rico Löb/dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Several refugee centers in Germany have been the target of arson attacks.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    With far-right violence on the rise, refugees are increasingly worried about their safety in Germany.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • There were ugly scenes in the eastern German state of Saxony last week with a mob blocking a bus full of refugees and crowds cheering as a refugee center burned down.
    • Leaders of the populist Alternative for Germany have suggested police could be given the right to shoot people illegally entering the country.
    • The party is poised to gain in regional votes in three Germany states on March 13.
  • Audio

    Audio

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The issue of refugees in Europe is widely described as a “crisis.” While that may be true in terms of its political and financial impact, other aspects have been exaggerated and amplified, particularly by some radical voices across Europe that are shouting: “Fear the refugees!”

They may claim that they are giving advice, but really they are spitting out their poisonous ideas, warning of the cultural differences and security risks which come from refugees, saying these people cannot be integrated. In doing so, they deliberately choose to ignore the fact that many immigrants are brilliant examples of integration in Europe, whether in academia or politics. Some of the newcomers have already been the focus of news stories about their active roles in their new community.  

Recently, the incitements against refugees took a terrifying turn in France, the land which gave the world the Enlightenment ideas of Voltaire and Rousseau on justice and equality. Many in that country have left behind those ideas, jailing themselves in a dark box called Islamophobia.

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo used the case of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy found dead on a Turkish beach last year. His image lying face down appeared around the world and prompted a wave of sympathy for the plight of refugees fleeing war. Yet the magazine used his tragic image in a very offensive way, with a cartoonist appearing to welcome his death and suggesting the child would have grown up to be a sex attacker! It was the third time the magazine had used his image in an offensive way.

They came to Europe with great hopes to save their children’s lives and future until the war in their homeland ends.

This immoral attitude toward the drowned child has been wildly criticized but thousands of copies were still distributed. Against the background of the rise of the right-wing National Front party, and increasing numbers of attacks against foreigners in France, it is regrettable that they targeted the same people who showed their solidarity with the magazine after the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo last January.

Other shocking voices have emerged from another country, the land which gave the world the great ideas and words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Immanuel Kant, who defended human rights.

The leaders of right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party have forgotten all about those great thinkers. Leading party members recently suggested that officers should use firearms against refugees arriving at the German borders to stop them entering the country.

With these remarks, I believe they have forgotten not only the great Germans’ ideas, but also the German constitution. The death penalty was abolished in West Germany in 1949. Yet the AfD “suggested” shooting people at the borders regardless of the fact that these refugees are trying to save their lives and mean no harm to anyone!

After very sharp criticism from all sides, the AfD leaders were forced to backpedal. But it’s a cause for real concern, because it comes amid a rising tide of anti-immigrant arson and other attacks. There were five times as many attacks in 2015 as in 2014. One of the most recent incidents was a failed hand-grenade attack on a refugee center in southern Germany.

First of all we have to distinguish between fear and hate. I believe the public has the right to have fears. However, these radical voices are hiding their hatred behind their voicing of fears and their warnings. They are manipulating the public’s concerns for political profit, regardless of how this policy damages the principles of human rights and Europeans values. They also ignore the sincere social efforts towards coexistence between refugees and community.

The refugees are already victims of war, tyranny and terrorism in their own land. They came to Europe with great hopes to save their children’s lives and future until the war in their land ends. The existence of these terrifying ideas and opinions, I believe, shows that it is not only the German public that has fears; the refugees have their own fears also.

 

To contact the author: gastautor@handelsblatt.com

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