How Germany is integrating its refugees

It seems to be managing

NAURAS NERAPI lived a comfortable life in Aleppo as a manager at a French catering company. Then came the Syrian war. He fled through Turkey and the Balkans to Germany, arriving in September 2015. “They put me on a bus but I didn’t know where I was going,” he explains. At a reception camp in Berlin he offered to help with the cooking. Today he speaks good German, lives in a shared flat and works as a chef. “In Aleppo I was left with nothing. Germany has been really good to me.”

His arrival coincided with a pivotal point in Angela Merkel’s career. As thousands made their way north and west, the chancellor declared “We can manage this,” and kept Germany’s borders open. Some 900,000 people arrived that year. Many predicted social chaos and Mrs Merkel’s downfall. Her apparent cruise to victory at the election on September 24th is a testament to two factors. First, thanks largely to a repatriation deal with Turkey, the numbers coming fell to 200,000 last year and just 80,000 so far this year. Second, and more happily, despite the strains most of the refugees are on the path to integration.


That path begins at the reception camps, from where newcomers are allocated to hostels like Rudower 18, in eastern Berlin. “We had three days to turn a derelict school into a home,” says Andrea Koppelmann, its director. Today, children’s paintings on the walls make it cheerier, but conditions remain basic: two or three families to a classroom. Women with babies peer nervously from behind bedsheets strung up for privacy. Other hostels focus on gay and lesbian refugees, lone men or unaccompanied minors. Friedrich Kiesinger, a psychologist whose charity, Albatros, cared for some 40,000 people in reception centres, took over an empty hotel and turned it into a home for tortured, traumatised and disabled refugees.

Within three months those with good prospects of staying should move into “community homes” with private bedrooms and kitchens. But building these takes time. One family has been in Rudower 18 for over two years. The final step—moving to a private flat—might take four or five years, says Mr Kiesinger. And in any case, he adds, integration does not end at that point: “We don’t want little Afghanistans growing up behind doors.” Education and work are both essential.

The first is going well. Children are usually attending school within three weeks of arrival, says Ms Koppelmann. Several teenagers at Rudower 18 attend the nearby Anne Frank School, where Dagmar Breske, a teacher, has devised a three-stage programme. In a class for illiterates, three Afghan boys haltingly read out lists of words beginning with the letter “A”. In another, the second stage, seven teenagers—mostly Syrians and Iraqis—are practising multiplication. A third class, the highest, is going over verb forms in preparation for the test determining whether they can enter regular German schools. Much of the work is cultural: training the teenagers to follow German rules and treat women as equals.

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Getting adults into work is harder. Only those granted asylum can take jobs. Once they have submitted their applications, those with good prospects (like many Syrians) take a compulsory integration course: 600 hours of German lessons and 100 hours of civics. Many refugees have had little education (see chart 1) and progress towards work could take time (see chart 2). Mr Kiesinger blames the obsession with formal language qualifications: “The best way to learn German is to get a job.”

The asylum process is slow, with appeals taking years to process. Many officials are new and inexperienced. Schools and homes are often left without guidance. Yet everywhere people are muddling through and mucking in. Networks of schools, refugee homes and lawyers are springing up to share good practice. Legions of volunteers have turned out (100 at Mr Kiesinger’s hotel). Michele Pirger is one. “I just read up on the subject and decided to get involved,” she says. Having started by taking refugees to concerts, she now helps Copts who have fled persecution in Egypt, and houses one in her flat.

How well are the refugees integrating? The picture is varied. But those with previous education, a good prospect of asylum and an affinity with Germany—like Mr Nerapi—do best. And two big trends stand out. Men, who make up two-thirds of asylum applicants, struggle disproportionately. Many travelled to Germany alone, are disappointed by the drudgery they find and miss the social status they once enjoyed. Waiting while asylum or deportation processes drag on, they can easily slip into addiction, crime or radicalisation, says Mr Kiesinger. They need work: “It’s not just about money. It’s about friends and emotional stability…the young men who come here are too inactive.”

Children, on the other hand, integrate easily. In Ms Breske’s classrooms pupils who arrived months ago are fluent, self-confident and ambitious. Asked what they want to be, the boys tend to say policemen or engineers and the girls—many without headscarves—say doctors or lawyers. Omar, a 16-year-old from Baghdad, is about to start training as a hairdresser. Mahdiya, an Afghan, says she plans to study political science and become a politician: she admires Mrs Merkel. Ms Breske tells of a recent day-trip when German and refugee pupils mixed so well that “I could no longer tell them apart.”

Of course it will be many years before Germany can fully assess how well it has integrated its newcomers. But it is already clear that the gloomiest predictions were wrong. Germany has taken in more than 1.2m people over the past two years, and coped. There is much more to do. But for now, it seems to be managing.


Too late, China and America see North Korea the same way

The two countries are in unprecedented agreement over Kim Jong-un’s nuclear and missile programmes

FOR many years, a plausible case could be made that two forms of timidity, one Chinese and one American, were blocking the sort of strategy that might—just might—make North Korea suspend or abandon its sprint to a nuclear arsenal. Start with the Chinese.

In theory, the prospect of a nuclear-armed North Korea peninsula worried Communist leaders in Beijing every bit as much as it did the Americans. The problem was that in China’s hierarchy of horrors, a nuclear-armed Korean dictator ranked very high, but just below the prospect of regime collapse in North Korea. That surpassing Chinese horror of instability meant that, to simplify, China’s rulers were willing to agree to any level of sanctions on North Korea, except those horrible enough to stand a chance of success.

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The Americans stand charged with their own form of timidity. Since George H.W. Bush, successive presidents have steeled themselves to negotiate with North Korea about its nuclear and missile programmes. America has offered massive bribes in return for freezes that were undermined by cheating each time. American presidents have offered painful concessions, including the withdrawal of all sea- and land-based tactical nuclear weapons deployed abroad in 1991, a step that was necessary to get the North Koreans to the table for talks starting in 1993.

But after years and years of haggling between official and semi-official envoys, it has become clear that the concessions sought by North Korea go too far. To simplify, the hereditary Stalinist regime of the Kim dynasty wants America to break its formal defence alliances with Japan and South Korea, and to remove all military assets from South Korea. Because that is deemed a price too high to pay, it could be said that America has been willing to consider any negotiating position, short of one that might actually work.

Now the time for timidity is ending. North Korea has shocked the world by testing intercontinental ballistic missiles that may be capable of hitting the West Coast of America. This week, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the regime’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, said that his country might be considering a test of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean. President Donald Trump called Kim Jong-un, the young dictator of North Korea, a “Rocket Man” bent on a “suicide mission”. Mr Kim responded with an unusual personal statement, calling Mr Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard”, who had convinced him that his course of seeking nukes is “correct” and needs to be followed “to the last”.

In this alarming moment, the Chinese this week agreed to some of the most sweeping sanctions yet. China’s central bank instructed the country’s banks not to agree new loans with North Korea and to wind down existing finance deals. Mr Trump unveiled an executive order imposing the most aggressive American sanctions on North Korea to date, including financial sanctions liable to have a chilling effect on the large Chinese banks that operate in America. Under Mr Trump’s order, international banks that facilitate transactions with North Korean entities risk being banned from the American market—an effective death sentence for a global bank. Behind the scenes, Washington, DC is rife with talk of Treasury officials threatening Chinese banks with hefty fines for aiding and abetting deals involving North Korea, even at arm’s length.

In private, Chinese and American officials have rarely sounded so similar in their scorn and anger for North Korea. True, the Americans still accuse the Chinese of selfishly failing to enforce the harshest and most crippling sanctions. Some hawks in Washington growl that the Chinese secretly like the way that North Korea keeps the Americans bogged down, and too distracted to challenge bad behaviour by Chinese naval forces and paramilitaries in the South China Sea.

For their part the Chinese accuse the Americans of a selfish lack of imagination, for failing to offer such concessions as a freeze on large-scale military exercises with their allies in South Korea. Nationalists in Beijing growl that the Americans are using exaggerated fears of North Korea to encircle and contain China. But still the Chinese have some reasons to hope for a breakthrough. Mr Trump says that dialogue with North Korea is still possible—“why not?” he told a reporter in New York this week. He is if nothing else an unconventional deal-maker with a taste for surprises.

Broadly, then, the two countries are in unprecedented agreement over North Korea. Alas, it may be too late. Kim Jong-un is painfully close to developing his great ambition, the nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting American territory that he sees as an insurance policy against attack, and as his ticket to being treated as a near-equal by America. In particular, senior officials and ex-officials on both sides see no reason why he will stop now. They privately call sanctions deserved and necessary, but insufficient. The problem is that any embargo brutal enough to have a chance of bringing the Kim regime to its knees would risk a humanitarian catastrophe, including mass starvation. Even that might not be enough. In 1990s North Korea’s Stalinist, quasi-feudal rulers rode out a mass famine without falling.

Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, conceded publicly this week to the New York Times that tougher sanctions might fail: We always knew that the sanctions may not work,” she said. “What the goal of the sanctions was always intended to be is to cut the revenue so that they could do less of their reckless behaviour.”

Listen to insiders in Washington, and it is easy to wonder if this will one day be seen as a high point of Chinese-American agreement. For if and when North Korea unveils a full-scale nuclear arsenal, America will be left with no choice but to pursue Cold War style policies of deterrence and containment. Experienced folk worry that China will hate a lot of what America has to do at that point, to contain a nuclear North Korea. America might have to deploy tactical nuclear weapons once more. More anti-missile THAAD systems may need to be installed in South Korea, bringing powerful radar systems that can see deep into China. American missile defence batteries will need beefing up in such places as Fort Greeley, Alaska, in such a way that China may feel its “second strike capability”, or ability to retaliate after a nuclear attack, is jeopardised.

It is hard to see much that is cheering about these days of confrontation and nuclear-armed bluster. But if the Asia-Pacific is plunged into a new Cold War, this moment of Chinese-American agreement will be missed.

Military dominance means nothing without taking care of Americans economically at home and becoming more competitive in the global economy. What America really needs badly is universal higher education, real investment in all Americans. Extending military dominance around the world will not stand the test of time, and America needs to engage with Iran because quite honestly a war is too costly and it’s silly to think that Iran is going away any time soon. America should force a peace treaty between Iran and Israel and resolve Sunni-Shia divisions. A regime change is not going to do much there. The country will reconstitute with a more fervently hostile-to-America state. The real issue is that China’s non-aligned apolitical approach is actually superior in being able to produce world hegemony in the long term. RETIRE THE DAMN NEOCONSERVATIVE IDEOLOGY. It had it’s time in the spotlight. Give them a pat on the back and let it go.

It is always funny to see the intellectual base and the largest proponents of American military empire and warmongering since the end of the Second World War — they are not soldiers but New York socialite bickering partiers like Norman Podhoretz, one of the major neoconservatives.  This article is amusing.  A New Yorker article is interesting biographically.

I can admire Norman Podheretz for his escapades in the competitive world of New York literary landscape with explicit adventures of seeking fame, power and money, but at the same time, it is clear that people like Podheretz should not be dictating or planning the use of American empire’s military force around the world. They are spoiled brats with frankly ridiculously small hearts and minds regards the serious problems faced by seven billion of our planet. The same is true of the rest of the neo-conservatives. They might be clever, but their hearts are too provincial, and they are unable to reach the sort of genius that is advocated in Emerson’s Self-Reliance, “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment.” These intellectuals should not be directing the might of a world empire with real people dying at the other end of the guns and bombs. Mr. Trump threatening to murder 25 million people in North Korea is just a comic expansion backed by these sorts of neo-conservative intellectuals who had taken rein of American foreign policy since 9/11.


The earlier empires were built by aristocratic political elites and in most cases ruled by essentially authoritarian or absolutist regimes. The bulk of the populations of the imperial states were either politically indifferent or infected by imperialist emotions and symbols. The quest for national glory, “the white man’s burden”, “the mission civilisatrice” not to speak of the opportunities for personal profit–all served to mobilize support for imperial adventures and to sustain essentially hierarchical imperial pyramids.

The attitude of the American public toward the external projection of power has been much more ambivalent. The public supported America’s engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The engagement of the United States in the Cold War was initially endorsed more reluctantly until the Berlin blockade and the subsequent Korean War. After the Cold War had ended, the emergence of the United States as the single global power did not evoke much public gloating but rather elicited an inclination toward a more limited definition of American responsibilities abroad.


I think the Trump Presidency is designed to attempt to revert to a quest for national glory that had played out in the pre-war European states and to excite imperialist emotions and symbols and the ‘white man’s burden’ into the American body politic. This is ironically a regression to the guiding values of American rulers after the Second World War when the same tendencies were quelled in Europe and Japan. The unleashing or mobilizing of such sentiments is a sign of decay of American power to be sure but also to mobilize the country precisely in a harmful direction for America to prevail as the geopolitical and economic hegemon. To use Trump’s vernacular, these forces are Loser forces; they have historically lost everywhere to produce any permanent progress.

Frankly Iran is a better bet than Saudi Arabia. Trump should make peace with Iran as follows:

(a) Make a consortium of all the world’s Muslim countries for Sunni-Shia reconciliation and peace GLOBALLY

(b) Produce a comprehensive Israel-Iran peace with the settlement of the Palestinian issues in the above context

(c) Get some COMPETENT diplomatic corps in the State department to handle this enterprise

Scrap the ‘Global War on Terror’ and make arrangements for criminal handling of terrorist violence with Russia. Strengthening the security apparatus of standing states and facilitating Sunni-Shia reconciliation is the best way to cull terrorism.

A quote from Brzezinski from 1997:

America’s economic dynamism provides the necessary precondition for the exercise of global primacy. Initially, immediately after World War II, America’s economy stood apart from all others, accounting alone for more than 50 percent of the world’s GNP. The economic recovery of Western Europe and Japan, followed by the wider phenomenon of Asia’s economic dynamism, meant that the American share of global GNP eventually had to shrink from the disproportionately high levels of the immediate postwar era. Nevertheless, by the time the subsequent Cold War had ended, the world’s manufacturing output, had stabilized to 30 percent a level that had been the norm for most of this century, apart from those exceptional years immediately after World War II.

More important, America has maintained and has even widened its lead in exploiting the latest scientific breakthroughs for military purposes, thereby creating a technologically peerless military establishment, the only one with effective global reach. All the while, it has maintained its strong competitive advantage in the economically decisive information technologies. American mastery in the cutting edge sectors of tomorrow’s economy suggests that America’s technological domination is not likely to be undone soon, especially given that in the economically decisive fields Americans are maintaining or even widening their advantage in productivity over their Western European and Japanese rivals.

To be sure, Russia and China are powers that resent this American hegemony. In early 1996, they jointly stated as much in the course of a visit to Beijing by Russia’s President Boris Yeltsin.


Then 20 years later, the military technology gap is further closed.  Unless some things change drastically, it is likely in my opinion that China and Russia will close the gap within another 20 years.  While the military technology arms race was successful against Soviet Union, it is unlikely to be successful against modern Russia and China if one considers American hegemenony primarily as a project of global military supremacy.  Two factors that are much more important in my view are domestic reform and diplomatic engagement with the world.