Germany and the Refugees

Asylum seekers walk outside the central refugee camp in Giessen, Germany, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Asylum seekers walk outside the central refugee camp in Giessen, Germany, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Before Paris, it was clear that Mama Merkel had underestimated the European Union's (and even German) fear of the "other," especially with no end in sight. State President Seehofer in Bavaria led the pressure to curtail the flow of refugees into Germany. EU countries refused the open door Merkel had called for.

The Chancellor had taken a moral position and stood firm. For her, the refugee problem was a humanitarian challenge: the proper response was to welcome the refugees, and to begin the process of support, education and integration into German society. Every member of her cabinet supported her position. All spoke eloquently and compassionately. This rare moral stand made Germany a beacon for the dispossessed all over the world.

However, even if one million refugees this year entering Germany represents only 1.2% of the population, the prospect of years of one-million-plus each year unsettled many. Accepting the refugees also would not deal with the cause of the flow, the crisis and unending war and chaos in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. With Russia supporting Assad in Syria, and with Sunni-Shia conflicts escalating everywhere, the prospects for a peaceful resolution for the Middle East seem distant.

After Paris, Poland suspended its cooperation for assisting the flow of refugees. Other countries will follow. The pressure for a harder line in Germany will increase. The EU has committed funds to Turkey and others to help them cope with their flood of refugees, but what happens if the camps become dead-ends for the refugees? Will they stay there, or will they continue to try to make it into the EU? And if the EU closes its borders, will that really stop the flow, or just slow it down?

The conflicts need to be resolved, and order restored to the Middle East, with some semblance of services, education, and the rule of law. Even if the Western powers and Russia escalate their military attacks on IS (better the NB, or the New Barbarians), it looks as if the only way to effectively suppress the terrorists would be if both Sunni and Shia unite against them, and carry the fight door-to-door to root them out.

How likely is this in the short-term? The Syria talks coming up may offer a blueprint, but the pressure has to be on the Islamic states to take responsibility and the lead. This has to become the key element of everyone's strategy. Uniting against a common enemy is not that strange an idea. Can it happen in the Middle East? Let us hope, and work for this end.