Collateral Damage: Foreigner Casualties of Germany’s Refugee Policy

fikiThe Problem

Many people have reasons for and against Merkel’s refugee policy, but I have no dispute with the very real need and relevancy of true refugee acceptance policies. War within several places, such as Afghanistan and Syria, have been fomented by a number of western countries for decades. They have covertly and overtly, aided and abetted, happily supplied arms and advisory personnel before installing local figureheads for a variety of reasons for their own benefit. Yet now many of the same ones, both citizens and politicians, are on the concern spectrum from sympathetic to outrage at the overwhelming influx people streaming into Europe or who need help in resettlement because of those ongoing events.

Germany is at the heart of the current situation literally and figuratively, after Merkel threw open Germany’s “doors” without forethought to having adequate systems in place to deal with results. It’s pointless trying guess why it was done without considering that, as a mostly inland country with only a northern coast, refugees would have to cross through others to the reach Germany, the perceived pinnacle of hope, leaving a swath of inadvertent disturbance in their wake. EU neighbors arguably but seriously and deservedly so have become exasperated with that reality, as Germany has latterly hurried to create contingency plans against the majority economic immigrants taking advantage of their offer.

Solutions?

In the scramble, and what is felt the need to cover any Ausländers coming to or in Germany (perhaps) lawmakers and policy pushers have now enacted new strictures or modified ones in place. I say, perhaps, because I don’t have access to copies of the change in guidelines, but many ex-pats are feeling the direct effects as interpreted by the Ausländerbehörde. The immigration office has always generated “horror” stories, with hundreds even thousands of forum threads and discussions of the frustrations caused and dehumanizing treatment by their unsmiling workers whose primary job is to say “No”. If you don’t believe that and/or object to that label, you don’t know German bureaucracy, where technically “Nein” is first reply on most any topic.

Conversely, I read an article this week about immigrant feelings towards “newer” arrivals in Germany, how they felt they were receiving better services and help in integration yet the report exclusively included Turkish perspective though they have protection build into the German system. Others were concerned with the growing resentment and threats made towards anyone perceived as “foreigner”, which those of us with brown-skin are immediately assumed to be anyway, despite like myself, being born in Germany. Most of the articles I’ve read are similar. What is often overlooked is there is a difference in “foreigners” just as there is in “refugees”. Established foreign workers, productive, tax and social fund paying, upstanding and educated foreigners such as myself are being ousted to make room for the influx Germany knows it now has to keep. This is despite systems and guidelines in place that shouldn’t have our presence being a “problem” they are forced to “solve.”

Realities

Whether it is was one person’s interpretation of rules, lack of training for varied circumstances, no matter the country of origin. Whether it was simply they didn’t want to be bothered or required to make a statement as to why they issued each visa/extension, as I’m sure they get reviewed on their choices. In any case, the strictures of the Ausländerbehörde have reached new high’s or low’s, however you want to look at it. Without regard to income (unless you make 6 figures), being a contract holder, your family status or proven track record of having met all requirements, it is clear they’ve been given (or interpreted) a directive to “get rid of as many you can that are not on the refugee ‘safe’ list”.

Where before, when you made your appointment, receiving the list of necessary documents, if you met those requirements (income, contract, health insurance, etc.), you were given a visa/extension for varying lengths of time. First time, it was often 1 year, and subsequently the same or 2 years or depending on time lived in Germany: permanent residency. That makes it seems easy (its not) because they always try twists and turns, such as “You don’t make enough money” but if you are aware of median household income requirements that can be disproved to their consternation. They told me that once, but when I presented that publicly available data that I did actually do so, they relented. I was once told my son (I’m a single parent with sole custody) could not stay because he might not be my child. They ignored the family reunification act, they stated the reason being he didn’t look like me because his skin is lighter than mine. Outright stupidity and insulting.

Although we had a copy of his birth certificate, they said he couldn’t stay until we presented an original, which has to be applied for in person in the USA. That if we did so within a prescribed length of time, it would be fine. Although it meant I had to spend over $2000 to fly him out of the country since he had to leave immediately despite being underage, we did so. However, when he returned with the original certificate, a new worker said we had to present all documents and applications all over again, not just provide the birth certificate, and despite my having 9 months left on my visa. They directly contradicted the previous directive, even though I had the letter as proof that worker had specifically issued me because she knew it would be questioned later. But they often contradict each other in their personal takes on guidelines, which is a polite way of saying they lie.

Their “checks and balances” system almost always has you seeing a new worker each visit, who often does not accept any material right there in front of them on their computer or which you present, but forces everything to be redone while issuing a “temporary” stay. I’ve done that 6 times now within the last year and a half. I know it is a system designed to keep workers from becoming overly familiar with visitors, as this might cause them to be sympathetic or ineffective, but it also wastes time. Not only ours but also the Ausländerbehörde office. They repeat visits many times within a year, forcing us to take time off from work, when that time could be allotted to others. BUT there is a distinct financial advantage for them to do so: we have to pay fees every time we go there.

I’ve received a year’s visa before, which was 50€. Their site says it can range between 50-80€. Now, instead of issuing a year’s visa even if having met requirements (and I did, and all the other North Americans I’ve talked but who were also denied an extension), you receive what’s called a Fiktionsbescheinigung. It is a 3-month temporary period. It is basically the same as the initial “travel visa” North Americans, among others, automatically have when they enter EU countries. But now instead, they charge you 20€ just for that “pass”. Besides forcing you to come back to get it (if they issue it at all), you are now paying 80€ per person a year JUST to extend your stay. Thus in one year we paid 160€ instead of 100€. Multiply that by 10K people. By 100K. They’re laughing behind their hands making extra money this way.

You, the educated legally working worker (if they allow that too, because they can deny it) who has been paying into their retirement funds, their pension, their continued health coverage, etc. who they now say, “We don’t want you anymore.” You’re the ones who have taken the German courses, interact with Germans in their communities, not your cultures’ created communities. Not that that’s wrong in and of itself, because of the intolerance or microaggression of Germans who don’t like or accept foreigners, justifying it as reasonable, have inadvertently forced non-Germans to create places where to do feel comfortable and accepted. It’s a complex sometimes frustrating social situation that has only been made worse by feelings on both sides of the equation arising from Merkel’s offer.

Uncertainties

But Turkish communities have their protections. They have their politicians and lobbyists in place, and incoming actual refugees deservedly have advocates and assistance, which they sorely need. Economic immigrants are finding they do not if they can’t trick the system or without needed skills though wait times for processing are challenging. Foreign workers who may have no plans to retire in Germany as they have family back home, but who are currently working and contributing to German society with its dwindling birth rates, now are find they are collateral damage. They are being uprooted and distinctly rejected, a process streamlined by bureaucracy’s blind eye for circumstances and proven eligibility. In a country that say it needs foreigners, needs educated productive people who want to support its society and lifestyle mind you. We are not trying to tear it apart, nor require or demand change to suit our religion or needs. As a American Indian, we know intimitately how the arrival/invasion of a majority religious group and population can affect natives of a land.

From a psychological and physical standpoint I absolutely sympathize with true refugees, as a couple of years ago we were “homeless” in Germany. The constant stress, the moving, the uncertainty? It’s still hard for me to consider unpacking some of my stuff because of that, and my son has nightmares. We had the funds to find temporary places, but for months moved every few days while looking for regular housing that was often rejected strictly on appearance in an already competitive market. You talked to landlords or companies on the phone, pre-proved documents and everything was just fine until you showed up being a foreigner, especially brown-skinned, though it does happen to our paler friends, too. They suddenly said the place was unavailable, directly contrary to what they said before. Certainly that is minor compared to what some refugees have experienced but I can understand aspects better than those who’ve always lived here, never been discriminated against because of their skin color or ethnicity, denied services or treated poorly for it.

We also moved to Germany after losing much in the series of tornadoes where we lived in the US in 2011, besides far more chips stacked against us than I’ll list now. So, we are also familiar with arriving with just what you have with you and knowing the system is against you but still having hope compared to what you’ve just come from. With the loops leapt through for the Ausländerbehörde as detailed above, we fought through the hard times since 2011 and finally have a home and a measure of peace since 2015, but like others we now face denial and deportation. This is despite meeting requirements. An individual immigration worker in historically flawed execution of directives, can now use the new measures still say “Hit the road”. Even liberal Germans will try to explain why this is correct and right, the reasons behind as if we are stupid, but they’ve never endured it. Others will simply take offense, but they’ve never endured it either. Law and policy makers just seemed to have overlooked the position of other “foreigners” totally.

Conclusion

The growing resentment and aggression of some Germans towards anyone perceived as foreign. The growing resentment and aggression from long established non-German residents who are seeing rising negativity towards them as well. The bad behavior and demands of some refugees and/or economic immigrants, mainly young and male, though in the minority, is tossing fuel on an already simmering fire ready to explode. Add in the the unilateral treatment by the immigration office of any foreigner that has risen in dismissive negativity and moneymaking schemes that frustrate and build anxiety in foreigners just trying to live and contribute. We’re not getting a lot, if any, press or attention to our concerns, needing nothing major but just fairness and adherence to what was already, more or less, adequately in place.

Maybe we all need to make plans to move along soon anyway, though there seems few safe ports left in the world anymore. As a Native American, my family’s origins are in what is now called the USA, but we are considered “foreigners” in our own land. Here, like others, however, we were trying to make the best of where we had chosen to move. Our contributions have only selectively or been distinctly underappreciated and unacknowledged when we were helping a society with a tendency towards xenophobia to better adapt and expand its understanding and acceptance of non-Germans in a gradual, generally positive way.

This exacerbating influx has potentially set Germany back decades in that, and in the decades to come will see self-created unprecedented conflict within its borders and on all levels because of an offer not well thought through. Good intentioned, I believe, considering Germany’s place in arming other countries. Even more so for countries like the US, which though far larger by majority refuses refugee applications, but still not well thought through by Germany and at the expense of its people and its “foreigners”. That being said, where do we go from here, literally and figuratively? Will those steps also be taken against our wills and wishes irrespective not just of individuals or families but also for German society as a whole?

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