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Too many men? Germany and the wrong kind of refugees

Sharon Maas

Updated: January 18, 2016, 10:18 AM IST
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What a difference a week, a day, a few hours, can make. On New Year's Day the families in my cul-de-sac in a quiet South German village gathered for a New Year's champagne. These are well-off middle-class Germans, and I am a tenant in one of the houses; I have known most of them for at least 30 years. They all have lovely large homes with beautiful gardens, two cars, state-of-the-art kitchens and bathrooms and so on. They consist of two retired couples, an older working couple and a younger family with three young daughters, whose father is the village mayor. In other words, they are The Establishment that might very well feel threatened by the influx of refugees in the village.

We were standing around an open fire in one of the driveways, drinking our New Year's champagne, and the conversation came around to the refugees. As a migrant to Germany myself (though not by any means recent) I only listened, and said nothing. I was pleasantly surprised.

Not one person expressed the least fear or even anxiety about our ability to absorb and care for these people. They talked about the problems the refugees might have (for instance, understanding the traffic rules -- they have all been given bicycles) and the consensus was "We can do it. We managed millions after the war and we can do this. If we can't do this then we have learned nothing."

Everybody in that group was positive and optimistic about our ability to cope, the mayor the most outspoken.
But over the next few days, an unbelievable story began to unravel. Just a few hours before our pleasant little get-together, something terrible had happened at Cologne Main Station. Something that would flick a switch in the Germany's welcoming attitude towards refugees. Something that stopped us in our tracks and made us questions our good intentions.

We still don't have the full details. What we do know is that on that night, hundreds of women emerging from the station were sexually molested by a drunken mob of possibly 1000 men of apparently Arabic or North African origin. Hands, apparently, were everywhere: groping, pinching hands, touching and grabbing the women as they tried to walk past. Leering eyes, lewd remarks in broken German, but most of all, arms, hands, fingers. One woman reported being raped. According to one police report, “women, accompanied or not, had to run a literal 'gauntlet' of heavily intoxicated masses of men.” One witness reported that he had been in the middle of the throng, "hand-in-hand with my girlfriend, which unfortunately didn't prevent her from being repeatedly grabbed under her dress." (Spiegel Online)

What we don't know is who these men are. Are they recent refugees, asylum seekers, established migrants? What countries do they come from? What is there status here? Nobody really knows, and it doesn't really matter when they came. All that matters is that they came. A few were arrested and let loose again. The police were outnumbered, helpless against the mob. Some of them, apparently, tore up their papers in front of the police: in a country where one's “papers” are the most important proof of a person's actual existence. It was, and remains, chaos, in a country that values Ordnung, order, almost above all else.

Whoever they are: they have made a mockery of Germany and its open-armed welcome to refugees, a welcome that has been lauded all over the world. I am among those who was proud of my adopted country's willingness to reach out to the distressed; I felt helpless, seeing the suffering on my TV screen, and I was happy that we were helping. Now we must think again. My upstairs neighbour and friend is outraged, as most Germans are today. She is not alone in thinking they should all be immediately deported, without trial. Frankly, I don't care where they go to. Anyone who has committed such outrage should be pushed back out the door—yes, even back into a war zone.

Much as I was one of those delighted with our reception of refugees, I had one concern from the first: why so many men? Where are the women? The children? The old and the weak? What I saw was hordes of strapping young men crossing our borders. But I ignored those initial doubts: Now they have been confirmed.

The thing is this: single, young males are the only ones likely to have the savvy, the means, and the mobility to hire people-traffickers to smuggle them across Europe. Young men are notoriously resistant against the blandness of responsibility. Young men all over the world covet cars, money, women; things they may have thought were instantly available in Germany. But they're not. That was my own prejudice at seeing all those young men. Whole families, or single women, or women with children, cannot easily run from war and terror. It's much easier for single men. So that's who came knocking on our door, and we took them. Foolishly, I say.

In a normal migrant situation the man goes first and, once he has found work, sends for his family later. But this is not a normal migrant situation. These are people allegedly fleeing war. But what responsible man would flee, leaving the helpless behind? Whatever happened to women and children first? The irony would be entertaining if it were not so tragic, so pathetic, so heartbreaking.

Of course there are exceptions. Of course there are also genuine refugee families among these people, and law-abiding, responsible males. But the attacking throng on New Year's Eve were neither law-abiding nor responsible. They were sexually aggressive young men who saw women, with or without a companion, and decided they were free to molest.

Now we are now stuck with the kind of migrants from a culture entirely incompatible with German mores: young jobless males who will be almost impossible to integrate, not knowing the language, living together in refugee homes, sexually frustrated, with no idea of how things work here. As we have seen, they are already started to disrupt the normal functioning of our society.

At the same time, tens of thousands of low-key Syrian Christian families still remain at serious risk in Syria or
are languishing in refugee camps in Turkey and Lebanon. Families who would be willing, eager even, to integrate into the fabric of mainstream European society.

What on earth was Frau Merkel thinking, many ask? Possibly she imagined she was getting a certain kind of immigrant with her open-door policy: responsible, highly trained individuals, doctors, engineers, IT experts; the educated middle class who would settle in nicely, find jobs, raise families, and pay taxes. Such an influx might help stave off the demographic time bomb Germany is sitting on. Instead she got a bunch of horny hooligans.
Germans are eager to atone for their dark history. Germany has deeply recognised the atrocities committed by this country in the last World War, yet still it wants to atone and atone and atone. In this case, the atonement led to well-meaning gullibility and, it seems, disaster. Even if only a minority of refugees are sexual predators, still it is too many. Misogynistic attitudes towards women upheld in certain countries are simply not acceptable in a western society and we must have zero tolerance. As an online friend of mine said: “If people on the left don't start saying it and finding a way, the extreme right will, and in a much worse way.”

As a well-integrated immigrant to Germany myself, I believe wholeheartedly in the adage: “when in Rome do as the Romans do”. Those who seek refuge must show respect for the laws and culture of the country that adopts them, or forfeit their welcome.

And this group of men have forfeited it, spoiling it for others who are well-behaved, who are able and willing to contribute to the society that has taken them in. Good intentions and compassion are fine, but they must be accompanied by a head tightly screwed on; in this case, the head should have said: Discriminate. Invite your guests carefully. Just as we do in normal family life. We don't invite every Tom, Dick, and Harry into our homes for dinner. Similarly, dinner-guests do not sexually molest the daughters of their hosts. What is valid in private is also valid in public.

The story goes that when Zoroastrian Parsis of Iran emigrated to India over 1000 years ago, they were not welcomed with open arms by Jadi Rana, the king of Gujurat.

“My country is overpopulated already,” he said, “How would we find room for you?”

The leader of the Parsi immigrants called for a bowl of milk filled to the brim and a spoonful of sugar. He then carefully blended in the sugar to the milk, not spilling a drop.

“We are like the sugar,” he explained, “We will only sweeten your country.”As they did.
I fear that the latest crop of arrivals to Germany, the young men we saw on our television screens streaming over the borders with joy on their faces, will, on the whole, not sweeten the country. They have already turned us sour. And just like my upstairs neighbour, I would like to see those that misbehave immediately deported to the country they came from, whether there is a war there or not. And exchanged for persons who truly need our welcome, and will appreciate our care.
Preferably women, children, and the aged. Those who need it most.
First Published: January 18, 2016, 10:18 AM IST

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