BERLIN — Bracing for at least 800,000 asylum seekers this year — more than any other nation in Europe — Germany is rolling out one of the region’s largest emergency responses since World War II. Yet as it scrambles to shelter the refugees in tent cities, at sports centers and even on the grounds of a former Nazi labor camp, a nation known for its efficiency is struggling to absorb them.
Outside the main refugee processing center in Berlin, for instance, asylum seekers are caught in a bureaucratic hell. Dozens are camping out on cold sidewalks — some for weeks — as they wait for their numbers to flash on a screen inside to secure temporary housing. But each day, it’s a crapshoot. At closing time on a recent afternoon, hundreds of asylum seekers were left empty-handed, including Ahmed Hamadich, 27, who walked toward his blanket for another night outdoors.
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The national and local governments are racing to hire thousands of new police officers and bureaucrats to manage refugees. Schools, meanwhile, are desperately looking for new teachers to help with an estimated 300,000 new students. Irina Wissmann, principal at Berlin’s An der Bäke Elementary School, said none of the 300 qualified instructors provided to her in a list by city officials were available to work. She said that with 20 new refugee students already and double that number expected by year’s end, she is afraid of surging class sizes as well as issues with traumatized children.
Some ironies here. Germany hasn't helped a whit with problems festering in the Middle East. It has been content to depend on the U.S. paying for its defense*. So, taking responsibility for helping refugees sounds pretty fair.
As for schools, Germany has imprisoned homeschoolers, taken away their children, and is making them refugees. So, refugees and public schools seem to go together for Germany. A few hundred thousand refugee children should test their public schooling mettle.
The stated reason for not allowing homeschooling is to prevent "parallel societies" and "ensure that children learn to live tolerantly with each other."
The 800,000 refugees should be a good trial for their no parallel societies goal--not to mention living tolerantly with each other. And maybe Germany will learn a thing or two about the necessity of getting involved in stopping a crisis before it results in the sort of misery that causes a million refugees. But, that's probably wishing for too much.
*This year Germany is set to spend only 1.16% of its GDP on defense (less than 60% of what NATO asks its member nations to spend). To put that in perspective, in 2007 the U.S. spent 5.2% of its GDP versus Germany's 1.5% of its GDP on military spending. Even for NATO the US provides about 23% of the military funding, Germany less than 17%, Canada only 5%.
H/T Byron York