Refugees. Lots of them.
In 2011 there were thousands. In 2012 there were tens of thousands. In 2013 hundreds of thousands. In 2014 millions, mainly in refugee camps in Turkey (2,2 million), Lebanon (1,2 million) and Jordan (1,4 million). Source: Wikipedia. In 2015 these refugees started to wash up on the shores of Europe. Surprise! By the millions. That’s not anything new. The Syrian crisis dislocated 12 million people and is the largest refugee crisis since WW II (look here for a very good WAPO infographic). But it is far from the only one. We’ve seen this before.
And everybody knows the solution: lasting peace in the Middle East. Nobody even talks about it. They will keep coming.
The EU can, theoretically and historically, easily absorb millions of immigrants a year (more about the culture thing below). After WW II, 12 million people or so immigrated to the new, much smaller Germany which enabled the Wirtschaftswunder (though it would take until the end of the fifties before unemployment was really low, this contrary to the situation in some neighbouring countries). But those were not normal times or, more important, this was at that time not a normal country. And today some EU countries are clearly stressed to the breaking point – during the last months of 2015 the number of asylum seekers in Sweden was about 0,4% of the population. Per month. (graph 1, Sweden has about 9,5 million inhabitants, Germany about 80 million). The press mentions for Germany a million immigrants in 2015 but that includes non-refugees, the newspapers mention a German rate of 100.000 a month at the moment.You can’t expect a country to accept this.
Sweden even runs the very real risk of joining the ranks of overburdened countries like Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. What makes things worse: until we start talking about and working on the real solution (see above) the present refugees and immigrants are just the tip of the iceberg. Millions – and when we also look at economic migrants from Africa: tens of millions – might follow. Remember: after the potato blight about half of the Irish population emigrated. Think about what global warming, might cause… Or the fusarium banana virus, which in some areas, were bananas are a staple food, is as much of a problem as the potato blight. They will keep coming.
And we all know the solution. Prosperity in the home countries.
Until then, we have a problem. Not just because of the numbers. But also because of the numbers. Many Europeans are not really good at procreating. Graph 2 shows the 15-19 year olds in 2014 as a % of the number in 2005 (some countries: 2006, data Eurostat). Latvia stands out at: 50%. But the entirety of ’emerging Europe’ is in dire straits (technical detail: the 2005 number of 15-19 year olds was often already below the level consistent with a stable population). There seems to be a remarkable correlation between a low ratio and a negative political attitude against refugees. Demographically shrinking populations feel overwhelmed by refugees – also as the large majority of asylum seekers are male (two thirds to three quarters, no sign of any decline according to the Eurostat data) and, in some countries, are recently flowing in in numbers which totally skew the ‘natural’ sex ratio – surely considering small cohorts of young people.
Which brings us to the culture thing. One of the in my eyes more despicable German habits is the ‘Oktoberfest’, ritualized serial binge drinking, increasingly characterized by violence and, yes, rape. These rapes and sexual harassments get a lot less attention than the recent rapes and robberies in Cologne, in the official media as well as, a fortiori, on social media. Even though, in October, German waitresses at a lilywhite Fest in Alkmaar, the Netherlands, went back home after a few hours because of sexual harrassments by foreign men. Let me be politically correct: our view of such events, be it in Cologne, Munich or Alkmaar, is clear: see the picture (if this were my daughter? I would be bothered about the cigarette). Via @Nicolaewna.
Behaviour aimed at curtailing the freedom of women in the public (or the private) space can not be tolerated. End of story. But there are more problems. Immigrants are at a higher risk of poverty. Unemployment is higher: in my country it is between 2,5 times (Turkish men and Surinam women) to 3,5 times (Moroccan women) as high as among people from Dutch origins (source: CBS). They are less healthy. And we all know that in the case of immigrants from Islamic countries gender relations are sometimes problematic: gender related dishonourable killings – not a purely islamic phenomenon in this area! – still happen and too many young men have issues with women in the public space. Sometimes I even get the impression that this is stronger here than in their countries of origin even though increasing numbers of women have jobs while the education of the second and third generations is way better than the education of the first generation, which is or was often even illiterate in its own language (this wave of immigrants seems to be better educated). These are long and complicated stories but though many -most- immigrants are succesful an underclass does exist. But I just don’t buy that, in the medium and long run, they will only be a drag on countries.
Anyway: they will keep coming, if we want it or not.
We all know the real answers to the problems causing this. But instead of talking about this and working on it we are bombing Syria into oblivion. Considering this, the only other option is to invest in them. Education, health care, citizenship. It is possible. It did happen before.