An­gela Merkel’s wel­come mat

Refugees roil the Ger­man pub­lic with an elec­tion ap­proach­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Only the hard-hearted would slam the door against a refugee. Their sto­ries are heart­break­ing and their courage in seek­ing a bet­ter life in a new home is re­mark­able. Nev­er­the­less, refugees in un­con­trolled num­ber are a headache for ev­ery­one. Ger­many, held up as a na­tion with a big heart, is learn­ing the cost of An­gela Merkel’s big heart. More than a mil­lion refugees have ar­rived since 2015.

Nearly 3 of 4 refugees ad­mit­ted will strug­gle to take care of them­selves, the Ger­man In­sti­tute for Em­ploy­ment Re­search finds. A new sur­vey sug­gests they’ll prob­a­bly stay for years on the pub­lic dole. The in­sti­tute finds that fewer than half ar­riv­ing from Syria, the largest source of refugees, ar­rive with the equiv­a­lent of a high school di­ploma, and barely 1 in 5 have a col­lege de­gree. Nearly half a mil­lion of them stand in the un­em­ploy­ment line, up by more than a hun­dred thou­sand from last year.

The good news is that the num­ber of asy­lum seek­ers in Ger­many dropped by 600,000 in 2016. Ay­dan Ozoguz, com­mis­sioner for im­mi­gra­tion, refugees and in­te­gra­tion, tells London’s Fi­nan­cial Times that only a quar­ter to a third of the new­com­ers will en­ter the la­bor mar­ket over the next five years, “and for many oth­ers we will need up to 10 years [to get them set­tled].”

Syr­i­ans, flee­ing an in­ter­minable civil war, are fol­lowed in num­ber by Afghans, Iraqis, Ira­ni­ans, Eritre­ans and Al­ba­ni­ans. To­gether they’re a po­lit­i­cal headache for Chan­cel­lor Merkel, whose poll num­bers have de­clined over the past year lead­ing up to the fed­eral elec­tions in late Septem­ber. She has had a gen­er­ous hand in wel­com­ing refugees and im­mi­grants, and most of them are Mus­lims who find it dif­fi­cult to adapt and ad­just to the re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal free­dom and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in the West. Poll­sters say ab­sorb­ing the mil­lion or more mi­grants is the top con­cern of Ger­man vot­ers.

The un­prece­dented num­ber of refugees in 2015 cre­ated an enor­mous back­log of ap­pli­ca­tions for res­i­dence — more than 430,000 cur­rently are wait­ing for clear­ance now. The Fed­eral Of­fice for Mi­gra­tion and Refugees has cleared more cases than ever be­fore, says Thomas de Maiziere, the Ger­man in­te­rior min­is­ter, con­sid­er­ably more than twice as many in the year be­fore. The num­ber of gov­ern­ment clerks has been quadru­pled to clear the back­log.

“The [refugee of­fice] is now out of the woods,” he says, “and with wind in its sails. Every month more de­ci­sions are made than ap­pli­ca­tions re­ceived, so the back­log is be­ing cleared.” More than 50,000 mi­grants vol­un­tar­ily re­turned to their home coun­tries last year, and an­other 25,000 were de­ported.

Mrs. Merkel, mind­ful of Ger­many’s record in the 20th cen­tury, wanted to play Lady Boun­ti­ful with her wide-open door, and dur­ing the height of the refugee wave, with hun­dreds drown­ing in the per­ilous pas­sage in flimsy boats across the Mediter­ranean and the Aegean Sea, she was widely ac­claimed. But the size of the refugee wave sur­passed ex­pec­ta­tions, and pub­lic opin­ion shifted dra­mat­i­cally.

Her open-door pol­icy was blamed for en­abling ter­ror­ism ar­riv­ing with the mi­grants, and when an Is­lamic mi­grant from Tu­nisia drove a truck into a pop­u­lar Christ­mas mar­ket in Ber­lin, killing 12 and wound­ing 56 hol­i­day shop­pers, the in­ci­dent gal­va­nized pub­lic opin­ion. It forced a re­view of na­tional se­cu­rity.

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