Last week German interior minister Thomas de Maizière confirmed that Germany has flown 125 refugees back to Afghanistan as part of federal government efforts to stem the flow of migrants into the country. He emphasized that the Afghans “had no prospects to stay in Germany,” and that Germany needed to “help people help themselves” in turbulent countries economically, socially, and politically.
German government measures to deter migration have benefitted from a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice, which ruled that Germany does not have to grant social benefits to non-German EU citizens for their first three months in the country. This ruling could help Germany limit economic migrants and ease pressure on the social security system. However, leader of German equal rights association Paritätische Werner Hesse has stated that without benefits, EU citizens often have problems acquiring health insurance, education, and housing.
A challenge for German local authorities is continually-rising anti-immigration sentiment, especially in the east. Attacks on refugee camps are becoming more frequent, with 924 attacks in 2015 compared to 199 in 2014. In late February, protesters, allegedly members of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, blocked a refugee bus entering an accommodation facility in Clausnitz, Saxony, terrorizing the refugees inside. Police forced the refugees to exit the bus despite the protestors chanting anti-immigration slogans. One 14 year-old refugee boy was forcibly dragged from the bus by an officer. Interior minister de Maizière defended police action on the grounds that the police were right to get the migrants into the shelter; otherwise, the protestors would have had their way.
Also last week in Bautzen, Saxony, a local crowd cheered as the roof of a refugee shelter went up in flames. Police believe this incident was arson, and traces of a fire accelerant have been found on the scene.
In this increasingly hostile climate, the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has struck a deal with the federal government to not accept any refugees from Morocco after the Cologne attacks on New Year’s Eve resulted in 30 out of 73 arrested from that country. Criminal gangs from North Africa have been a growing issue in North Rhine-Westphalia, thus forcing the prohibition of Moroccan refugees, 80 percent of which settle in the state. Over 6,400 Moroccans came to the state in 2015, marking a 300 percent increase since 2014. However, since Morocco is already considered a “safer” country than Iraq and Syria, seeking asylum from Morocco is already very difficult.
Although Germany recorded another budget surplus last week, many local authorities are having difficulties stretching their resources to cover the influx of refugees, leading them to outsource to companies part of the “refugee care” industry. As it turns out, refugees are good for business, with local authorities in Berlin offering €50 per head per night to house refugees, and companies like Bremen-based Human Care acquiring million-euro contracts to manage refugee homes.
European Homecare, one of Germany’s largest private care providers, employs 1,500 people and provides social services to over 16,000 asylum seekers and refugees in 100 different facilities. Services include planning consultancy, building renovation, and language courses in order to help refugees transition into German life. European Homecare’s revenue quadrupled between 2008 and 2013, and its profits doubled to €1.4 million between 2012 and 2013.
European Homecare has not been without its scandals, however, and in 2014, photos emerged from a facility in Burbach, western Germany, of staff posing with their feet on the heads of cuffed refugees. Critics say that abuse is inevitable in privatizing refugee care for a profit.