A Nation Divided by Refugee Migration: What is the Solution for Germany?

Alex Seymour '17Contributing Writer I have been in Hamburg for Smith’s Junior Year Abroad program for two weeks now. When I got here, refugee migration was all over the news. There have been a record number of refugees in Germany: 50,000 just in the past week, with the expected number rising to 800,000 by the end of 2015. I have taken the opportunity to ask people what they think, and the responses I’ve received aren’t all that different from what I’ve heard in the United States regarding undocumented Mexican immigrants. One worry is that the refugees will take jobs away from citizens. This is a view that seems to be held only by the political right, with the majority of people rolling their eyes at such statements. Another person I talked to said she thinks it’s important that the refugees relocate to Germany. She said that because Germany has such a dark past, having committed one of the worst human rights violations in history, it is important that they make a real effort to come back from that. But people on every side seem to agree on one thing: There has to be a better way to handle the surplus of refugees. A couple of days ago, a group of white supremacists demonstrated against the influx of refugees in the central train station, prompting a counter-demonstration on behalf of the refugees. There have been so many refugees and volunteers in the Central Station that people can barely enter the building. Another issue is that Germany’s relationship with other countries has been compromised in some regards. Denmark is Germany’s neighbor to the north, but right now, there are no direct trains from Denmark to Germany because Denmark doesn’t want to accept refugees. So what do I think? Well, I think it’s great that Germany wants to help these people–but there has to be a way to do it that is better for the refugees, as well as those already living in Germany. The refugees have escaped horrible situations, and they deserve better than crowded train stations and exhibition halls. If it were up to me, there would be a greater effort to house them sustainably and allow them to better integrate into German society. In order to do that, maybe the German government should slow down a bit and come up with a permanent solution rather than just a quick one. Only time will tell how Germany–and the rest of Europe–responds to the continuing arrival of refugees.