September 2015 – EUROPE – The sheer numbers flooding across the Mediterranean, the harrowing images of children drowned at sea and of desperate families scrambling to board trains, have divided people and governments in Europe, young and old (though not always how one might expect) and east from west. There have been remarkable demonstrations of compassion. Across Germany at the weekend, banners were hoisted at Bundesliga football matches that said simply “Welcome Refugees.” German champions Bayern Munich have announced plans to set up a training camp for refugee children which will provide football sessions as well as German language classes and meals. Police in the German city said they’d been ‘overwhelmed’ by donations for refugees.
In Britain a petition to ‘accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugee migrants’ had nearly 300,000 signatures by late Thursday. And in Barcelona, in response to Colau’s appeal, hundreds of residents have offered rooms in their homes to migrants who might be admitted to Spain. But those rooms may remain empty. Immigration — legal and otherwise — is a toxic political issue in many European countries, accounting for the rise of far-right parties in Scandinavia, the surge of UKIP in the United Kingdom and the National Front in France. Conservative governments in the UK and Spain have taken a hard line on migration, insisting that the focus of European efforts should be on targeting the human traffickers — the enablers of the crisis — and improving conditions in the migrants’ countries of origin. Standing next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy rejected the idea of ‘quotas’ of refugees for each EU state. “Some countries don’t want refugees,” he said. “You can’t force anyone.”
Refugees or economic migrants?
Some argue that the majority of those who have arrived in Europe are not refugees escaping political persecution but migrants seeking better economic opportunities. It’s a distinction Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopecz makes. “Our decisions have to be first of all effective in bringing help to those who need it, not for those who see chances for a better life in Europe,” she told a news conference Thursday. To others that’s immaterial. Europe is a large, rich but aging continent that actually benefits from immigration, they contend, much as America does. To veteran political journalist Philip Stevens, the handling of the crisis has seen “lofty rhetoric about collective action gainsaid by a fearful retreat into the narrowest of nationalisms. The rich nations of the EU had other things on their mind: austerity, recession and the never-solved euro crisis,” Stevens wrote in the Financial Times Thursday. –CNN
Karma comes back in spades to haunt Germany – as foreigners flock to former Nazi country