Posted on January 15, 2016

Can Germany Be Honest About Its Refugee Problems?

Jochen Bittner, New York Times, January 15, 2016

For all its horror, what happened on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and other German cities might help the Germans solve a longstanding problem. The issue is not the one-million-plus refugees who have come to us in the first place. It is how to deal with problems that immigrants might be, are or will be causing.

More than 650 criminal complaints have been filed by women in Cologne regarding that night, and more than 150 in Hamburg, including two cases of rape. {snip}

These are uncomfortable facts. And until now, Germans have struggled to find an appropriate, decent way to address the issues they raise, without being labeled a Nazi or a fool. At last, this is changing. If Willkommenskultur, the welcoming culture, was the word of the year for 2015, this year’s leading candidate should be Ehrlichkeitskultur, the honesty culture. Cologne has been the catalyst: It shows that we must talk more frankly, yet not less responsibly, about immigration.


In fact, the attacks do fit a pattern: According to the Cologne police, 40 percent of the city’s immigrants from northern Africa become delinquent, mainly for theft, within their first year in Germany. Another problem, the police say, is that in order to avoid deportation, many asylum seekers from this region ditch their passports so that their home country is unknown.

The charge that economic immigrants are masquerading as refugees, long denied here–including by Ms. Merkel herself–is now painfully, undeniably true. And why wouldn’t it be? If you’re a 20-something Moroccan without any job prospects, and suddenly an airline ticket to Istanbul equals an entry ticket into Europe, wouldn’t you take your chance?

The problem, as Cologne demonstrates, is that potentially thousands of these men are criminals, with no other aim than to rob and betray their hosts. This is despicable and unbearable.

Ms. Merkel should acknowledge that she underestimated this problem. The continuation of Willkommenskultur depends on her embracing an Ehrlichkeitskultur. {snip}


Ms. Merkel has said that right now, our country needs to draw on a new German pragmatism. Yes, but it also needs German thoroughness, not least for the sake of the real refugees who need our protection. Without a cleareyed Ehrlichkeitskultur that addresses real problems in a reasonable tone, we risk seeing it fall into the hands of the growing far right.