John Menadue. Mother Merkel and 800,000 refugees

In September last year I posted an article about the Heroism of Angela Merkel in her generous response to asylum seekers arriving in Germany.

She is holding to her course but the difficulties are increasing. The attacks on women in Cologne by men who were reported to be of Arab or North African decent on New Year’s Eve coloured attitudes. This unfortunate event and growing concern has resulted in Angela Merkel’s approval rating dropping from a high of 75% almost a year ago to 46% now.

It was always going to be difficult and leadership in this area will always be politically fraught. It is so easy for the unscrupulous to appeal to the fear of foreigners, the outsider and the person who is different.

The arrival of newcomers in any country is probably the greatest test of leadership.

Ben Chifley made a courageous decision that Australia should accept large numbers of Jewish people following the disastrous events of WWII in Europe. He didn’t do any public polling or focus groups. If he had and was influenced by it, we would not have accepted Jewish refugees.

In the 1970s, Malcolm Fraser didn’t wait for political polling to decide if we should accept refugees from Indochina. I am sure that if he had commissioned any polling, it would have told him to be careful.

In Australia every group of new arrivals, whether migrants or refugees, has encountered opposition. but we have got through these difficulties and as a community we now look back with pride with what we have done in accepting people from Germany, the Baltic countries, Italy, Turkey, and Indochina.

The opposition to Angela Merkel is nothing new. It will need courage and skill to see off those who resent her country helping vulnerable people.  Perhaps like Australians in receiving newcomers, the Germans will also get satisfaction out of knowing that they responded well and that not only the newcomers, but the German people were beneficiaries.

Repost from September 2015

With its sometimes dark history, Germany is facing a great test with the unprecedented arrival of asylum seekers .There are conflicting signs of great generosity, disappointment, anger, hope, mistrust and honesty. A great drama is being played out.

With the support of her political opponents in the Social Democratic Party, Angela Merkel of the Conservative Christian Democratic Union is grappling with courage and determination a trial for the heart of Germany. She warned ‘If Europe fails on the question of refugees, its close connection with universal civil rights will be destroyed’. 

In an article in Spiegel Online on 31 August, staff correspondents wrote of the ‘Dark Germany and the Bright Germany.  Which side will prevail under the strain of refugees.’

They said

How long will the alliance of reason hold up? … As many as 800,000 refugees and migrants may arrive in Germany this year. … and even if we don’t really know how things will develop in coming years, one thing is certain;  the numbers aren’t likely to drop appreciably … it is also certain that the newcomers will change our country. Germans have only recently become used to the idea that they live in a country of immigration and now, the next illusion is being destroyed;  that there is such a thing as controlled immigration. It isn’t just the best minds that are coming to us; it is people fleeing Assad’s barrel bombs and Islamic State brutality. They are running for their lives, whether they are illustrious or illiterate.

The good news is that most Germans don’t have a problem with this. Sixty percent are of the opinion that the country can absorb the huge numbers of refugees currently arriving. And a new form of civility is developing, one that isn’t just being driven by pricks of conscience and the weight of the past. Rather, it is fuelled by the joy of doing good. But how long will it last?

Mother Merkel as many refugees now call her, is showing courage and leadership, something we lack in Australia. She is finding the road rocky and hilly, but she offers great hope. She is appealing to the better angels of the German people        John Menadue

For a full account of the Spiegel article, see link below:  http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/spiegel-cover-story-the-new-germany-a-1050406.html

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