Image credit. Like my mother who was brought up in German-dominated Upper Silesia, millions of Germans ended up being refugees in their own country at the end of the Second World War. The "intruders" met distrust, disdain, and even hatred from their own fellow countrymen. My octogenarian neighbour, having been expelled as a young woman from Lower Silesia, cannot forget to this day the fiendishness of her own German compatriots.
As for the refugee crisis seething over here in Germany after a virtual invitation to millions of refugees by Chancellor Merkel ("the mother of all the faithful" as Muslims, ashamed of their own regimes' refugee policies, refer to her), I worry about our home-made mistakes, notably the rash knee-jerk do-gooder emotive politicking with no concern for the law and the non-obvious consequences of "humanitarian" hyperactivity.
Many of my fellow countryman seem eager to create a good business climate for people smugglers and fall over themselves to entice millions of people to take fatal risks in the hope of reaching the Teutonic land of milk and honey, while the rich Islamic countries adjacent to the flashpoint absolutely refuse to accept refugees (with Saudi Arabia instead generously offering to build 200 mosques in Germany). Germany's "Samaritans" may well be precipitating waves of unintended negative consequences in a country with a sizeable clientèle cultivating xenophobic and anti-Muslim attitudes.
In the meantime, Matt Ridely reminds us that in other important ways, we are likely not to know what we are doing or talking about, while at the same time forgetting our recent penchant for aggressive nation building or at least our acquiescence in Western policies resulting in unprecedented destabilisation of the countries from which most refugee originate:
Even the most compassionate of European liberals [the author must be referring to the American meaning of "liberal", G.T.] must wonder at times whether this year’s migration crisis is just the beginning of a 21st- century surge of poor people that will overwhelm the rich countries of our continent. With African populations growing fastest, are we glimpsing a future in which the scenes we saw on the Macedonian border, or on Kos or in the seas around Sicily last week will seem tame?
I don’t think so. The current migration crisis is being driven by war and oppression, not demography. Almost two thirds of the migrants reaching Europe by boat this year are from three small countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. These are not even densely populated countries: their combined populations come to less than England’s, let alone Britain’s, and none of them is in the top 20 for population growth rates. [...]
Actually, demography is a poor predictor of migration. Nowhere in the world are people leaving countries specifically because of population growth or density. The population density of Germany is five times as high as that of Afghanistan or Eritrea: unlike water, people often move up population gradients. Tiny Eritrea, with only five million people, is a hell-hole for purely political reasons. It has a totalitarian government that tries to make North Korea and the old East Germany look tame: it conscripts every 17-year-old into lifelong and total service of the state. No wonder 3 per cent of its people have already left.
It is equally obvious why people are clamouring to leave Syria and Afghanistan: violence is driving them out, not shortage of food, space, or water, let alone climate change or anything else. (Notoriously, in 2005 the UN Environment Programme forecast 50 million climate-change refugees by 2010.)
So it is simply not the case that migration of Africans (or Asians) will be driven by their ever-increasing numbers. Ethiopia, next-door to Eritrea, is the second most populous country in Africa, with higher population density than Eritrea, and 90 million people. But its government is only mildly authoritarian, its economic growth rate is an astonishing 8-12 per cent over the past five years and people are not clamouring to leave.
Expect much volatility, U-turns and sea changes in public opinion on this issue in Germany. The subject is highly emotionalised while the vast majority do not really have a stake in the matter, a combination making for a lot of cheap talk and irresponsible hypocrisy.
More needed than ever: responsible politicians!