Mama Merkel, I Am an Immigrant, Too
The refugee crisis in Europe is the hottest topic on our proverbial plate and is what will change the face of Europe forever. I don’t profess to be all that well versed as my primary sources of news is France24, online articles and conversation among friends, including close friends who are working directly with the Syrian and Afghan refugees landing on the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos.
Author and friend, Timothy Jay Smith,facebook.com/timothyjay.smith), along with his partner, photographer Michael Honegger, (facebook.com/michael.honegger), both Americans living in France, frequent Lesbos as one of their ‘homes-away-from-home’ and found themselves embroiled in the crisis since they first started landing on the shores of their favorite oasis.
The guys have their hands and hearts full. Lesbos is just a few miles from the coast of Turkey, making it a key landing spot. Greece has seen as many as 200,000 refugees and migrants since the beginning of the year and aid agencies predict they could welcome another 200,000 before the end of the year. Tim and Michael are the kind of ‘do-gooders’ every crisis needs. Their work on the ground assisting in getting the refugees settled is making a real difference. (If you want to join in their efforts from your armchair, visit this Facebook page and at least make a donation.)
The bigger story is, of course, what is Europe going to do with the hundreds of thousands of migrants pouring into the continent? Hungary is doing its best to keep them out, sealing it’s border with Serbia, a key land route. Its right-wing government is taking a tough approach and the UN isn’t happy predicting that its actions could limit the rights of the asylum-seekers. One French Mayor, Robert Ménard, of Beziers in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon, isn’t happy either. He posted a video of himself of himself telling the immigrants to leave, “You are not welcome in this city.”
Meanwhile, French President François Hollande is taking a different position. He’s agreed to take in 24,000 refugees over the next two years, creating a divisive tactic among his right-wing opponents. At first he was opposed to any quota, a move that appeals to his conservative opposition and may win him favor. National Front leader Marine Le Pen is naturally opposed to welcoming the refugees and “accused Germany of welcoming refugees for the sole purpose of hiring low-wage ‘slaves’ for its industry.” (politico.eu/)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who’s been nicknamed “Mama Merkel” for her open-door policy to refugees is calling for a special EU summit to ask Europe to come together on the crisis. It’s a funny turn of events considering Germany’s history. There was a time, not all that long ago (70 years), that trains of people were leaving Germany to escape the Nazis and now the refugees see it as their number one sanctuary: “the promised Deutschland.”
I think Mama Merkel and the Germans are smart and are naturally open to the crisis. They reckoned with their past and went through their own form of psychological reform, declaring the past not part of their genetic makeup. The Germans don’t want to repeat their past and never want anyone else to think it would be possible of them to show anything less than absolute empathy. She also knows how immigration is going to strengthen Germany. The country has the world’s lowest birthrate and needs to produce a workforce. In fact, just to hold steady, it needs over 500,000 immigrants a year, so isn’t this the perfect opportunity to welcome in Syrians, many of whom have important skills — engineers, doctors, college graduates, etc., who are willing to embrace their new home with enthusiasm and industriousness.
The rest of Europe isn’t seeing it this way. Conservatives don’t understand the benefits of immigration. They only see immigrants as a diluting factor to their cultures, as people who take jobs away from citizens, and as a new drain on an already failing social security system. They are wrong.
Anyone who has ever studied the benefits of immigration knows that 1) there are economic gains because immigrants take on jobs most citizens do not take (low cost labor of which those cost reductions are eventually passed on to the consumer), lightening the load of both producers and consumers, resulting in economic gains; 2) to diversify the culture is a plus, not a minus, because it increases product diversity, too — such as ethnic restaurants, imported goods, cultural centers., etc.; 3) the standard of living and quality of life is increased, for which all immigrants strive; 4) it brings in a younger workforce, which increases social security revenues and slows down the high costs of social security expenses; 5) and skilled workers can fill the gaps in a country as often immigrants seek countries where their skills can be appreciated.
Sure, immigration has some disadvantages, but the positive benefits outweigh the negative benefits. Mama Merkel knows this. I wish France knew it, too. I am an immigrant. My Expat friends are all immigrants. Maybe we didn’t come by boat seeking refuge, but we came nonetheless, and we worked hard to create a life here for ourselves. We contribute to the benefit of France in every way. Even if retired, we’re spending what we earned in our homeland here in France and contributing to the tax base. We own property, again investing in France our own money earned elsewhere. We have jobs — important jobs that provide skills the French didn’t have. We bring new ideas and different view points. And we are consumers and give it all back.
The moment I hear an immigrant speak negatively about immigration, I wonder if he’s forgotten his roots. Virtually every American (except for the Native Americans) either immigrated to the U.S. or had parents who immigrated to the U.S. What would the U.S. be without immigration? It would be a wasteland or a farmland, but it certainly wouldn’t be the greatest power on the planet as it is now. How do you think it got there? Immigration.
Here’s my prediction: Germany is going to benefit greatly from it’s open borders during this crisis. Economically it will rise to become the single most powerful European nation leaving France and the other countries hanging onto its coattails for survival. That will be a funny turn of events, don’t you think?…unless the heads of state get smart and follow Mama Merkel’s lead. Maybe we should all move to Germany, while property prices are still reasonable? Then, maybe France will wish it had more of an open-door policy, too.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
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