I got very scared yesterday evening. As I was walking home, a drunk man walked past me. His face turned red and he repeatedly shouted: “Shit Migrants!”
Luckily, he only looked at me briefly. I guess my light skin colour protected me.
However, I am a migrant. One month ago, I moved from Germany to Austria.
Today, I was very lucky because I do not look like the “sort of migrants” who seem to be the biggest threat, the worst problem, the source of all-evil for many Europeans. Otherwise, this Austrian man might have attacked me.
This scary incident demonstrates what is happening all over Europe right now. The media and populists use the terms migrants, refugees, Muslims, and asylum seekers for their selfish interests. The populists get followers and voters. The owners of publishing houses and TV shows earn a lot of money by selling negative news about minorities.
They are trying to divide people by painting a black-and-white-picture of a very complex and complicated development in Western societies.
The one-sided framing of many news outlets does not show the real situation. Of course, some migrants/refugees/asylum seekers are criminals and have to be punished, but most of them are peaceful. They want to have a decent life for themselves and their families.
My personal experience
In April, I joined the buddy programme of the Open University Heidelberg. Its aim is to bring together students and refugees. Many refugees who arrived in Germany are not familiar with the German education system and the offered courses in higher education.
I liked the concept of the buddy programme from the beginning because it focuses on individuals. Each student (buddy) gets introduced to a refugee (newcomer), and both can decide how often, when and for what purpose they want to meet up. For instance, some refugees need help with paperwork while others need help in learning German. Some of them want to experience university life for a few days by accompanying their buddies to classes at the university.
After my registration, I got introduced to a young man from Latakia, Syria. We met every second week over a period of six months and became good friends. I showed him many places, and answered his questions about my culture and German bureaucracy.
I also learned many new things from him: about the situation in Syria, the Middle East, the living conditions and struggles of refugees.
He fled to Germany in August 2015 because he wanted to live in a safe place again and proceed with his education. His aim is to become an architect and painter. He was forced to leave Syria and his family behind. Otherwise he would have to join the army. In other words, he does not want to die AND he does not want to kill anybody.
Some may say that he is a coward. He should stay in Syria and fight for his country, but I can understand that he does not want to fight. He could be killed or wounded, or even worse, he could end up in a prison and get tortured.
What Syria really needs is peace. No more soldiers, no more weapons, no more destruction.
Very soon, I noticed that this man from Syria has NOTHING in common with the descriptions of refugees in the mainstream media. He is not a terrorist. He is not violent. He does not treat women in a bad way. He does not want to bring his whole family to Europe.
Refugees are the new scapegoats
Many refugees are currently in Germany and the number of hate crimes against them is very worrying. Nearly 800 attacks against refugee camps happened this year. There are attacks against religious places of minorities, for example a mosque in Dresden.
And the victims are not only refugees or migrants. Journalists, volunteers and politicians are amongst them, too. For example, a mayor was beaten up by a mob because he said that he wants to accommodate refugees.
These terrible crimes happen because many media outlets and influential people report false and one-sided information about refugees to gain more money and power. Here are some examples:
1. “Refugees rape our women.”
In January, a woman reported that an asylum seeker raped her in my hometown Mannheim. The case was investigated and it turned out that she lied to the police. In the end, she had to pay a fine.
There are many more cases like this one in Germany. These people lie and do not care that they help to create a negative view about refugees.
And a lot of public money is spent to investigate these cases. These people betray the German system and all German taxpayers.
But the media and populists need this kind of stories. They can use them to propagate their one-sided-views, and get more outraged and “worried” followers.
The truth is: most cases of sexual violence happen at home! The perpetrators are husbands, partners, friends, family members, colleagues…
I truly ask myself: Where is the outrage of the public about rape in general?!
The news about rape cases is only a tool against refugees. The public does not care about the rape of women. They never cared about it.
If the news would report about EVERY rape case, the public would see that most of the perpetrators are their own fellow citizens.
According to the Federal Ministry of Interior, the police registered 32,079 cases of sexual violence in Germany. Who committed the crimes?
79, 5 % German nationals
20, 5 % others, only 4, 8 % are listed as immigrants
In Austria, the police registered 986 cases of sexual violence. From where are the perpetrators?
79, 3 % Austria
9 % other EU member-states
11, 7 % other nation states
Another fact is that many prostitutes in European countries are female migrants. Many of them do this job without their consent. They live like sex slaves.
However, the mainstream media does not report about the exploitation of female migrants by their fellow citizens because headlines about rapes committed by male refugees is more profitable.
2. “All criminal migrants should be deported.”
Many “worried” citizens argue that refugees commit crimes, and they should be deported immediately.
The statistics about crimes committed by foreigners in Austria reveal an interesting fact. In 2015, the police registered 92804 perpetrators from foreign countries. After Romanians, the SECOND biggest group consists of German citizens.
Is there any public outcry against Germans in Austria? I have not heard about it.
Austrian media outlets and populists do not blame Germans, even though they commit more crimes than Afghans, Syrians or Moroccans.
Why? Because Germans are not an easy target. There are too many important economic and cultural links between both countries. This example shows the hypocrisy of the media and populists.
3. “Refugees are terrorists.”
Many refugees flee to Europe because of the war and terror in their home countries. They are scared of the same terror groups such as ISIS. And they are scared of the bombings carried out by Western governments and their allies.
Terror organizations in the Middle East use vehicles and weapons that were left behind by Western forces.
As long as the arm’s trade of Western countries does not stop, terror networks can easily get new weapons and continue with their terrible acts and the training of new soldiers.
Many ISIS fighters are Europeans. They do not re-enter Europe as refugees. They are European citizens. French, German and British citizens constitute the majority of the European foreign fighters that joined the ranks of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria and Iraq.
When I lived in Berlin, I frequently saw a guy riding his bike through the streets of Kreuzberg. He was a rapper during that time.
Today, the German citizen Denis Cuspert alias Deso Dogg resides as a member of Islamic State in the Middle East. And there are many more European men like him.
4. “There are only male refugees.”
Yes, most refugees are male, but there are many women and girls, too. Some days ago, two Yazidi women who escaped from Isis won the EU human rights prize. Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar live in Germany.
A huge number of refugees are in Germany right now. According to the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, there were 476.649 asylum applications in 2015:
69,2% male applicants
30,8% female applicants
However, there are many reasons why most refugees are male. Boys and men are usually under more pressure to flee because they are forced to join armed forces. They are more likely to be killed by bombs because they are more visible in the public space and they tend to take the journey to Europe because it is very dangerous. Women are more often victims of sexual assaults. They cannot travel easily if they are pregnant and they have to look after their children and elderly family members.
My own grandmother was forced to migrate from Poland to Germany after the end of World War II. She could not make the journey on her own. It was too dangerous! Her father had to accompany her and protect her.
Smugglers demand a lot of money. If a family has to decide which person can travel to Europe, they usually choose male family members. They should study and work in Europe. They are usually better educated, and have more work experience than women have. In most countries, women are homemakers and mothers.
5. “Refugees come here because they want money from the government.”
Most the asylum seekers are from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. They come to Europe because their countries are destroyed. They cannot work and live there anymore. They have children and other family members to care for. They want to have a future.
European governments decide who can stay, and who has to be deported. Many asylum seekers are still waiting for the outcome of their asylum applications. As long as they wait, they are not allowed to work and move away.
They receive a very small amount of money from the government, and they spent most of it in local shops nearby the refugee camps. This means that they buy products from European companies and a big amount of the money goes right back to the government in form of taxes.
The young man from Syria who I mentioned in the beginning of this article receives money from his family members in Syria and Lebanon, and he spends it in Germany. German companies and the government profit from it.
Many Europeans found a new job because of the high number of refugees. For example, they work for private security companies, in the construction and public service sector.
On the refugee route
If you are interested in reading the real story of a refugee, please check out “On the Refugee Route” by Dina Baslan. She documented the journey of Somar Kreker from Syria to Germany. I met both of them through a summer school on migration in Prague this year.