Coming from Vienna on our way to the Frankfurt book-fair, we had to cross the Austrian-German border. Border control was abolished since the treaty of Schengen (implemented in 1995) guarantees free movement within the territories of its member states. Only this time the highway was totally blocked. Cars and lorries queued up for 20 kilometres and more, nothing moved. Drivers came out of their cars, families started to use the highway as a playground. More than an hour passed before the queue started to move again slowly.
The small story of a blocked highways reflects the big migrant crisis Europe faces. Police and customs officers control the main transfer routes into the south of Germany. As Schengen agreement does not allow controls at the borderline, they block the streets some kilometres inside Bavaria for hours and hours, one day after the other. The effect of the random checks is a psychological one: calming the German population, who see hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring into the country and who are afraid of the social and cultural consequences. Since the middle of September, the registration of the refugees takes place when they enter the country in special trains or motorcades of buses; quite often asylum seekers escape the designated routes and stray towards the north in big groups, thereby occupying streets or railways. Hundreds of thousands are on their way, most of them longing for one destination: Germany.
Coming from Asia, they enter EU soil for the first time in Greece, nobody cares about them – the Greek authorities are unable to register everyone, they have enough problems to fight hunger and economic disaster within their own population and country. The migrants pouring into Greece through the island of Lesbos in numbers up to 7000 per day remind us of a threat made by the Premier Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras. When his Syriza government was blackmailed by the Troika of European Central Bank, European Commission, and IMF and forced to implement harsh austerity measures, he warned that Athens could stop controlling migrants at the border. Observing today’s chaos in the middle of Europe, you may interpret it as a Greek revenge for its national humiliation.
Following the path of asylum seekers on their way to the north, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria consider themselves as countries of transit. Railway stations turn into sleeping grounds for refugees, tents are erected along their route, thousands march along streets and railways, others burn their belongings to warm up during cold nights. Food, shoes and blankets are distributed. Young urban helpers present themselves as part of a so-called welcome-culture, which tends to be more and more exhausted, asking for financial aid from the respective state. The social climate in the concerned countries is heavily shaken by the migration phenomena. A clash of civilisation in the middle of the European Union is on the way.
Moved by war and free trade
Let us put aside the question, which is much discussed in the media, if the people coming to the economic core country of Western Europe from Asia and Africa should be named refugees, asylum seekers or migrants. This discussion is relevant for their status in the country of destination, but does not reflect the reason why they left their homes. We assume: nobody leaves their home when conditions there are fine or at least bearable. So why do million of people migrate? The answer is rather simple, although not always given: they are moved by war and/or the consequences of free-trade agreements. People flee economic break-downs, social misery, and war, which itself often is an outcome of economic imbalances and geopolitical interference.
Just take a look at the regions, where the migrants pouring into Germany are coming from. We see four regions of origin: the Balkans, Syria, Afghanistan / Pakistan and Libya / North Africa. 80% of the 1 million estimated refugees who entered and will enter Germany in 2015 were forced to leave homes in these four regions of the world. All of these regions recently faced or are still facing war. And it was mostly NATO bombers that destroyed infrastructure, housing, workplace, schools and hospitals. When the Western military alliance started its undeclared war on (the rest of) Yugoslavia in March 1999, it was not the first NATO intervention in the country.
In February 1994 NATO jets bombed cities where Bosnian Serbs lived and thereby accelerated the process of destruction in Yugoslavia. During the 1990s around 100,000 Bosnians fled the country and sought shelter in Austria and Germany. The 78-day bombing campaign in 1999 devastated the Balkans far beyond Serbia. Today we see two regions under Western protectorate (Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo) and a former Yugoslavia, which is fragmented into small states along ethnic lines. Kosovo holds the world record in unemployment for young people (70%). Recently an opinion poll centre asked young Kosovars about their hope to emigrate in the near future. 55% answered with “yes, I would like to leave Kosovo”. This is a real tragedy for the region – and another one for the countries of destination.
Serbia is still faced today with a problem of 200,000 inner refugees coming from Kosovo and Croatia, where they had to leave their homes during war time and afterwards. To summarize the situation in the Balkans: no economic recovery took place after the military intervention by NATO in 1999, high unemployment (not only in Kosovo) steals the future of the youth, and the logic outcome is: emigration.
The second hotspot refugees come from is Syria, where in 2011 protests turned into a civil war heavily nourished by foreign interests from Washington, Paris, Brussels, Ankara, Qatar, and Riyadh. The first interventions of the Western powers into the Syrian tragedy were indirect, when Washington supported Islamic fundamentalists’ opposition. Assad's fall was a declared aim of Western politics. As it turns out now in a report of the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Washington and Barack Obama were not only aware of the rise of radical Islamism in Syria, but used ISIS in its strategy against Assad. The DIA report from August 12, 2012 states that «the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Aqi (al Qaida) are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria» and «the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition, while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime». The DIA anticipated the future, writing of «the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.» Likely - DIA continues - there will be a split of the Syrian state into one part to be controlled by Russian-backed Assad and a Salafist-controlled territory along the Syrian-Iraq border. Whatever scenario would come true, Syria today is a failed state.
In the meanwhile more than 4 million of Syrians fled their country, many of them coming to the refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. When UN World Food Programme and Western aid organizations cut their budgets for these camps in October 2014, hunger arose among the refugees … and moved them towards the north of Europe. The effects are multiple: migrating young men deprive the Syrian army of combatants against the Islamic State (IS), well-trained engineers, doctors and other skilled workers will be missed at home whenever Syria’s disaster is put to an end; so a recovery of the local economy cannot take place for at least two generations. On the other hand, young Syrian men without family pose a problem for guest countries like Germany in terms of communication (because they do not speak German), workforce (because they are competitors on a labour-market which is already tense) and testosterone (because their sexual activity would not be contained by marriage as it would under normal conditions in their home culture).
The sheer quantity of this migration is likely to turn into a new quality. The foreseen 1 million refugees represent 1,25% of the German population. This is the figure for 2015 only. A society with such an input from outside will change; and the outcome could be the Americanization of Germany. The political Left and people of welcome-culture mistake the influx of refugees for the old idea of multiculturalism. Contrary to somehow cooperative multicultural communities, Americanization means de-solidarization and rising individualism ending up in segregated districts along not only social but also cultural dividing lines. The first plans for a so-called «New Aleppo» in Germany with Muslim housing and mosques are already presented on a drawing board by an architect Manfred Osterwald. The name of the segregated community reads «Smart H.O.M.E. City» as acronym for «Help and Organisation for Migrants in Europe».
The political Right uses the migration phenomenon to spread hatred against foreigners in general and asylum seekers in particular. For them refugees are responsible for destruction of otherwise sound and healthy society. So migrant's victimhood is doubled: at home they fled the catastrophe and in their country of destination they are misused for political purpose. By this, structural problems that lie behind the migration wave can easily be faded out.
Beside wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya, free trade agreements and land expropriation contribute to forced migration, especially in Africa. Under the pressure of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements, Western agrarian multinationals grow cash crops on huge areas in the Sahel zone thereby exhausting local water reserves. The land is taken by foreign corporations, the water is used to export flowers and vegetables to Europe, so traditional peasants have no more place and means to survive. In addition to that, the European Union subsidises the export of milk and meat products to Africa thereby destroying local markets. Similar procedures target fishermen along the African coasts. Bilateral contracts open offshore waters to Japanese, European and American fishing companies, and local fishermen are no more capable to survive. Migration is the consequence.