Germany offers refuge, while UK drags its knuckles

Germany offers refuge, while UK drags its knuckles
Comment: Despite rising anti-immigration violence, Germany's politicians and people have stuck to their principles to welcome refugees. Take note, David Cameron, warns Paul McLoughlin.
4 min read
27 Aug, 2015
Most Germans appear to welcome refugees to their country [Getty]
In one week, the world has seen two faces of Germany.

The first is a stereotype carried on from the Nazi era - fascists burning down hostels and attacking foreigners.

The other is the modern compassionate face of Germany.

We have seen communities support refugees and a government willing to open its borders to those in need, despite the protests of groups such as Pediga, and the neo-Nazi attacks on refugee centres.

Germany now hosts the largest numbers of refugees in Europe - and it expects to receive 800,000 this year, many of them Syrians who have faced unimaginable horrors in their own country.

Berlin has even ignored its own laws to ensure they are not deported.

It is the polar opposite in the UK. The government here has sided with rising anti-immigration sentiment, as popularised by the right-wing press.

Tabloids and broadsheets alike print sensationalist headlines about the UK's "immigration crisis", and of the country being "flooded with migrants".

The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday, 26 August

A media that is obsessed with immigration and "pulling up the drawbridge" reflects - and perhaps bolsters - negative attitudes towards "outsiders", even if those in question are fleeing wars and have nowhere to go.

This has a lasting effect on the extremes. Far from being a fringe group, Britain First has more than 800,000 followers on Facebook.

The rise of such groups has allowed racist terminology about refugees to creep back into everyday life, and threatens the multicultural attitudes developed in the UK over the past 30 years.

UK politicians have done little to redress the situation. Prime Minister David Cameron described the few thousand refugees trapped in Calais - attempting to find refuge in the UK - as a "swarm of people".

His anti-immigration rhetoric was congratulated by Roberto Calderoli, a politician in Italy's far-right Northern League party who once told a black Italian minister that she "had the features of an organgutan".

The language used by German politicians is much different. President Joachim Gauck attacked "dark Germany", following xenophobic attacks in the east of the country. Angela Merkel, the chancellor, has publicly stated her backing for refugees and told EU countries they must do more to help.

This mature and compassionate attitude to immigration arguably leads to a more accepting mindset in the media.

In Germany, news presenters have been willing to risk their jobs by making impromptu speeches about the evils of xenophobia and racism.

Article continues below video
German TV anchor Anja Reschke goes off-script to rail against racism [

It brings a sense of community, where people, rather than feeling threatened by refugees, embrace and help them. This includes Refugees Welcome, an activist group that provides financial assistance for refugees to set up their own homes outside the "migrant camps".

When the Pegida movement launched Islamophobic marches in Germany, young Germans responded by going on to the streets in solidarity with the refugees, attracting larger crowds than their neo-fascist counterparts.

Europe has seen 340,000 people find refuge within its borders so far this year - three times the number in 2013.

This reflects compounding problems in Europe's neighbouring countries.

In 2015, the Syrian regime has stepped up its bombings of rebel areas and the Islamic State group continued its offensives, forcing millions to flee.

Rival Kurdish and Iraqi-Syrian militias have launched campaigns of terror in territories recaptured from IS. It has forced thousands more to flee into Turkey fearing their lives.

NGOs providing critical support to more than four million Syrians in camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have seen crippling budget cuts this month.

With no political solution to the Syria crisis it means the situation is unlikely to improve.

However, despite the failure of the international community to address the war in Syria, countries such as Germany understand the pains the people have endured and have tried to address it the best way they can - by welcoming them into their homeland.  

Sadly for many in the UK, including an almost exclusively xenophobic mainstream media, it is the refugees who are the problem. It is those beliefs which are costing lives in Calais, the Mediterranean, the Balkans and elsewhere - and showing Britain's bloody-mindedness to the rest of the world.