The New York Times reports: Ahmad Mahayni, a 38-year-old businessman from Damascus, is one of about 200,000 people expected to throw themselves on Germany’s mercy this year and apply for asylum.
Mr. Mahayni is resourceful, and he seems determined to build a future for his family. He helps out in the refugee facility where he was sent after arriving at the Berlin airport and telling the police that he was seeking asylum. A fairly fluent English speaker, he quickly figured out that “the key of success here is the language” and began taking 10 hours of German class each week.
But even as refugees like Mr. Mahayni work hard to adapt to their new homes in Germany, Germans are contending with a stream of new arrivals.
Three and a half years of war in Syria have produced the world’s worst refugee crisis, the United Nations says. In Germany now, refugees are arriving by the thousands, and even in the country where a Nazi past constantly evokes reminders of a special duty to help, the welcome mat is wearing thin.
To a large extent, the reluctance begins with a question of where to house ever more arrivals. Cities from Hamburg to Munich to Berlin have variously resorted to tents and modified shipping containers, and even talked of vast ships — a solution last used in the 1990s, when the Balkan wars created a similar influx into a recently reunited Germany.
The problem has grown so acute that Chancellor Angela Merkel has summoned the governors of Germany’s 16 states to meet in the coming weeks. Her vice chancellor, the Social Democratic leader Sigmar Gabriel, has already urged the allocation of an extra billion euros, or about $1.2 billion, in aid to hard-pressed communities. The authorities admit that they failed to anticipate such a wave of refugees and in recent years tore down too many empty buildings that could have been useful now. [Continue reading…]
Bill Frelick writes: With the number of Syrian refugees in the Middle East hitting 3 million, it’s worth examining how the United States and other countries not on the frontline of the conflict have stepped in to help countries like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. These countries have the misfortune to be neighbors not only of Syria, but of Iraq and Israel/Palestine as well, other places that have been the source of millions of refugees.
Consider this: Lebanon is hosting 1.14 million refugees from Syria, the equivalent of 83 million refugees in the United States — or the combined population of California, Texas, and New York. And what has the United States done to relieve the human burden on Lebanon and Syria’s other neighbors? In the first 10 months of fiscal year 2014, the US admitted a grand total of 63 Syrian refugees. [Continue reading…]