This is a book anyone interested in the current Refugee politics in Germany should read. Already in the Preface, the author traces important parallels between the 90’s and the 2015’s, when respectively 400 thousand and 1 million refugees arrived in the country. In 1992, there was the attack in Rostock-Lichtenhagen:
And in 2015, there were attacks in Tröglitz, Heidenau and Freital. Below the attack in the city of Clausnitz, in 2016 , when a 100-strong group chanted ‘We are the people’ and ‘Go home’ at a bus carrying refugees to an accommodation. whilst one protester was showed threatening the group inside the bus with a cut-throat gesture. (The book doesn’t mention this specific event as it was published before it happened).
What has changed then? Christian Jakob does a good job comparing events, media reports, political actions throughout the years in order to show what and how the idea of Germany as a non-immigration country has changed, even if not yet completely. In 1992, when neonazis killed 34 people in Germany, the reaction of the then Chancellor Helmut Köhl was to refuse going to the funeral of the victims and stating that the government wouldn’t go on a funeral tourism. In 2015, after the neonazis attacks in Heidenau, Angela Merkel goes to the small city even though she’s been called a people’s traitor. In 1991, the magazine Der Spiegel writes in its headlines “A flock of poor people” about those coming to seek asylum. A year later, The Bild newspaper writes “Almost every minute comes a new refugee. The flood is growing, when will the boat sink?”, a headline that may have influenced the voting results in Baden-Wuttemberg, where three days later, 10% of the people chose DieRepublikaner as their political party of choice. They had the slogan “The boat is full”. In 2015, the same Bild Newspaper wrote “The seven lies about asylum seekers” contesting the idea that people coming to Germany would steal jobs from the locals, were a bunch of criminals and concluding that Germany needs newcomers. One day after publishing this article, the chief-editor of the Bild places a banner in his twitter profile: “Refugees welcome”. The media hasn’t changed by itself though, in the years in between they had to start reflecting a slightly different reality as part of the german population begins to show public displays of solidarity towards refugees, specially those fleeing the war in Syria, which is a big humanitarian catastrophe happening very close to Europe; the fact that Germany is the winner of the Euro crisis, with a record of tax incoming, low unemployment, no further debts, with a budget which is even, and where the industry has been for a long time asking for more working force/migrants to join in. These are the background facts, the context in which the author presents the protagonists of his book and gives meaning to part of the book’s title: “how refugees have changed Germany in the last 20 years“. And that is when the book really starts, by telling the history of grassroots refugees groups such as The Voice (founded in 1994), the Caravan for the rights of Refugees and Migrants (founded in 1998), which like no other groups have been responsible for continuously organizing so many refugees for such a long time against the miserable life conditions asylum seekers are forced to face in the country. Groups who’ve done countless campaigns against the prohibition for asylum seekers to study, to work, the high risk of deportation, the endless asylum processes, the Residenzpflicht, the Lager system, the isolation, the racist attacks and laws, the stigmatization and criminalization of the refugee communities. In Die Bleibenden you can get to know a bit more of the history of these groups and its activists as well as of groups such as the Women in Exile. The struggles and actions of many political activists have paved a path along with we can continue joining forces to keep up with the refugee struggle, which is, as Angela Davis wisely named The Movement of the 21st Century.
Die Bleibenden Wie Flüchtlinge Deutschland seit 20 Jahren verändern. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 2016, 18 € (unfortunately still only in german).