A Europe of Refugees

Europe has always been a continent of refugees und migrations. The debate surrounding how to deal with these challenges has only just begun. An article of the "Berlin Anthology".

For ages, Europe has been a continent of refugees, migrations, and intermixing. This is all the more true of Germany, Europe’s central power. Here the marches and mass migrations of peoples, which have been rewriting the European map for thousands of years, intersect. Romans and Teutons, Franks and Saxons, Swedes and French, Slavs and Jews, people of all possible ancestries, belief systems, and ways of life have left their traces behind. These immigrants became Germans. The attempt to try and trace the German nation back to a common bloodline has always been laughable.

After all the internecine conflicts and deportations that emanated from Nazi Germany during the Second World War, bombed-out West Germany took in the twelve million refugees from the Reich’s eastern territories. They were countrymen, but often disliked. When the Soviet Union collapsed, another million Germans-by-heritage joined a Germany that most of them knew only through hearsay.

The economic boom of the sixties and seventies would have been unthinkable without the cheap labour from Southern Europe and the vast expanse of Anatolia. They took on the low-paying, back-breaking jobs for which fewer and fewer native Germans could be found. They were recruited as “migrant workers”, but millions stayed. In the nineties, hundreds of thousands fled once more to Germany during the Yugoslav Wars. And now a new wave of refugees from the warzones of the Near and Middle East, from Libya and Syria, from Iraq to Afghanistan. They struggle along hazardous routes over land and sea towards Europe; thousands lose their lives in the process. On their journey they encounter those fleeing poverty and seeking work from the west Balkans and the other side of the Mediterranean.

The debate surrounding how to deal with these challenges has only just begun. Closing the borders would be inhumane and furthermore, it wouldn’t work. Alternatively, to open the borders completely and for everyone who wants to come here would likely lead to significant political and social deficits. Yet every form of regulated immigration necessitates differentiating between various groups: politically persecuted, war refugees, migrants fleeing poverty, qualified immigrants. Different approaches, processes, and proposals must be developed for each of these groups, and if possible, across the entire EU.

Togehter with the International Literature Festival Berlin we have called on authors to contemplate the fates of refugees and asylum-seekers in literary form. The "Berlin Anthology" is now available for download.