1.1. million immigrants arrived in Germany in 2015, according to its Federal Statistics Office — the highest number of new arrivals in a single year. Even though the government has welcomed many migrants crossing the German border over the past couple of years, the country is now in the process of deciding whether ships of refugees originating from Africa should be stopped before they reach its shores.
Angela Merkel has been a major advocate for housing those escaping from the Syrian conflict as well as other countries where job and education opportunities are limited and poverty is rampant. Germany, in fact, has stood firmly by its commitment to offer humanitarian assistance to those who arrive there in search of better lives. This puts it in stark contrast to Hungary where Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister, has made it his business “to ensure that we should not be forced to accept in Hungary people we don’t want to live with.” Still, a department of the German government headed by Thomas de Maiziere is now discussing Germany’s response to the refugee crisis from an entirely new angle. A government spokesperson has recently told Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a plan to stop ships before they arrive would be a ‘humanitarian’ effort. Its aim would purportedly be to protect the passengers and discourage human smuggling.
The Germans would deploy the same refugee screening process currently being used in Australia where ships of passengers seeking asylum are sent to offshore centers in the Pacific. By never allowing vessels containing refugees to land in Australia, the Australian government insists it’s combatting the smugglers who pack passengers into unsafe vessels under the pretext that they’ll have a better life. The Germans, however, have not officially announced that this is going to be their future approach to handling the many ships of migrants originating from Africa.
The focus on African refugees has been of particular interest to anti-refugee political parties in Germany, particularly Alternative für Deutschland. Jürgen Elsässer, editor of the magazine Compact, which is regarded as the local news media most sympathetic to an extreme right agenda, recently said, “We’re supposed to be allayed by humanitarian arguments, but it would be better to look after these people where they come from. It would certainly be cheaper.” Much of the softening of the German government’s refugee stance is being attributed to what’s perceived as a growing lack of social support for it. While international opinions on this approach towards handling the refugee crisis has been muted, the Australians have received negative criticism for using it. The New Daily has referred to stopping ships of migrants from reaching their desired destinations as “immoral.”