The German government welcomed migrants with open arms in 2015. Today, it urges them to leave and is willing to pay them for getting out of the country.
The media talks about a “tarnished image“. Sadly, it avoids a much needed debate of the problem.
We’ll pay you to go back home
“Your country. Your future. Now! “- under this slogan, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Germany organized an information campaign encouraging migrants to return to their homeland. Those who decide to leave by December 2018 would receive a minimum of 1,200 euros. The amount of money depends on the status of the immigrant, as well as their nationality. Yemenis, Syrians and Libyans are excluded from the program. A family with two children can expect to be paid 3,000 euros.
The message is consistently positive. The program does not directly promote leaving, instead it talks about a new opportunity waiting for the migrants abroad. It was launched under a catchy name: “StartHilfePlus” (help for start). The rhetoric used by the German government is reminiscent of procedures adapted by many corporations, who, when letting go of employees, talk to them about new openings, ambitious challenges and adventures that the soon unemployed will surely experience.
Dispersing the propaganda fog, however, clearly shows the reversal of the policy of hospitality (Willkommenskultur). Now, the Germans no longer invite but disinvite the migrants. This change can be observed by comparing today’s content of the website www.returningfromgermany.de with a video released by the Federal Office for Migration and Asylum prior to the policy shift. The video, back then, depicted a German official waiting before their office gate for an Iraqi migrant to ask politely how they could help. This kind of government material made many Germans sentimental toward the migrants while encouraging thousands to come.
In autumn of 2015 the whole world saw the pictures of masses of Germans greeting the arriving refugees at the train stations while holding welcoming banners, carrying bags stuffed with teddy bears, and with balloons in their hands. It was almost as though, to the west of our Polish border, some kind of “Olympics of goodness” were taking place.
Few, in those days, have had the opportunity to express their fears and doubts. One can almost say that the sympathetic attitude toward the new guests has, in a way, become a new verifier of decency, a kind of test for humanism, and a measure of sensitivity to human harm. “Germany was finally good” – I heard at a private meeting with a correspondent for the state media in Poland. The reasons for why such collective enthusiasm was so successfully enkindled among thousands of ordinary people are complex. They can be divided into three categories of causes: pragmatic, ideological and emotional.
The most important pragmatic cause that prompted the acceptance of the refugees was the need for cheap labor. In order to ensure the well-being of an aging society, as one circulated argument would stress, the German economy would need more affordable migrant workers. To that point, it seems as though, some German economists still submit to the thinking of the 70’s, a time when the economic miracle was taking place. It translated back then to a few simplistic views: the immigrants’ labor costs less, they can fill the demographic gap, they can be used in industries where the native Germans do not want to work. Called pragmatism in the past, this approach, however, would today succeed only temporarily. By taking into account the anticipated technological development, (as Grzegorz Lindenberg convincingly explains in his book “Improved Humanity”) there will be very little employment for unskilled workers in 30 years.
Migration as the new standard
“Mass migration is the new reality”. “There is nothing that can be done to stop it”. “One has to accept the movements of population”. “Migration, in essence, is a good phenomenon”. “The free flow of people across borders builds open society, which, in principle, is better than the closed one”. “The new Europe should become multicultural. After all, we can not refuse the right for people to live wherever they want”. We have heard such arguments many times. They belong to the ideological group of causes.
Understood in similar terms, immigration is to function as the remedy for inequality created by the global economy, a medicine for nationalism. Ultimately, it is to bring the final triumph of the leftist idea of post-nationalist, post-Christian and post-modern society. Beyond those arguments, however, lies the conviction that every person can settle anywhere in the world. Borders are unnecessary and the fight against illegal immigration denies progress.
Continuing this logic, it is considered that, for centuries, the state was a forced organization. If I were born in Poland and my parents were Polish citizens, I’d become a Polish citizen whether I wanted to or not. The Left seems to perceive the above situation not as a simple necessity, but rather as an oppression stifling the individualism. Hence, the German press, at least a big portion of it, referred to the migrants as “new citizens”, thus granting them exactly the same rights as those who carry Bundesrepublik passports. These views are lined with fear of discriminating against anyone and they bring us to the third category, the emotional causes of the open border policy.
Demons of the past
In Germany, the national solidarity got stained by Nazism. The Germans, ever since, live in a state of collective expiation. Today, seventy-three years after the fall of the Third Reich, the government in Berlin desires to pass as an arbiter of ethics on the international arena. It strives to implement humanistic values, to escape from the demons of the past, and to avoid bad associations at any cost.
This used to be, anyway, the motivation of the German Chancellor. Angela Merkel once said that she had decided to open the borders, because otherwise Germany’s prestige would suffer. Indeed, the border patrol using force against the storming crowds would surely trigger a wave of negative comments among Germans, although a similar situation on Hungarian television would probably not move the viewers too much. Besides, for people with an unwavering sense of moral superiority, helping another person is just a natural instinct. The role of the state is to assess how to help best.
Aleksander Krawczuk, a distinguished historian of antiquity, discussing the Romanian “comedy of the republic”, wrote that “the thinking and imagination of most people are governed by appearances [or illusions], slogans and names. Whoever uses them skillfully and consistently is able to persuade anyone to almost anything. Fiction thus becomes a real political force, equal to having an army and money”.
The average citizen thinks in categories known to them from everyday life. They don’t read the reports and analyses. They do not have to anticipate the social effects of their humanitarian reflexes. Their authorities, however, have the responsibility to do so, and the media should be there to help explaining the complexity of the matter. Both parties failed in their tasks.
Fiction has won so far. The utopia of the “culture of hospitality” is holding firmly. Disappointment will probably be painful.
Polish original: Niemcy zapłacą imigrantom, żeby wyjechali