FOCUS online: Mr. Klaus, the attack by a group of migrants on a Görlitz high school graduation celebration has caused horror throughout Germany. Concerned citizens now fear that anti-foreigner sentiment could change, even among those who have previously supported the refugees. How do you see the situation as the district’s immigration officer?
Alexander Klaus: As far as active refugee workers are concerned, I’m not worried. Because they know that this is not an everyday case, no matter how ugly it may have been.
What worries me are those who can’t put this into perspective because they don’t have the information to put it into perspective. To make matters worse, there is video of the attack that went viral on social media. It reaches a great many people who might believe that this is normal when it comes to foreign citizens. They show how seven, eight, nine people, probably drunk, attack revelers in front of a nightclub.
Those are ugly pictures, no question at all! And those responsible must be held legally accountable as quickly as possible.
Görlitz: “The overwhelming mass of migrants and refugees behaves in an exemplary manner”
But the bitter thing is that now, unfortunately, very, very many innocent foreign fellow citizens, no matter where they come from, could be discredited in public opinion. However, the overwhelming mass of migrants and refugees in the district of Görlitz is behaving in an exemplary and peaceful manner.
The number of refugees has been rising again significantly since last autumn. What is the current situation in the district? Are there accommodation bottlenecks?
Klaus: In the district of Görlitz, 79 percent of the communal accommodation and the decentralized accommodation options are 100 percent occupied, as of June 29th. The current capacity limit of the shared accommodation is 1059 places.
Around 1,614 refugees and migrants are currently living with us, around 48 percent of whom are housed decentrally and around 52 percent centrally. The grants from the state of Saxony are increasing. In the first half of 2023 until July 18, 2023, we as a district were assigned 548 people.
We expect to have another 500 people admitted by the end of the year. But we are already in the process of increasing capacity and will do so. We intend to accommodate as many people as possible in a decentralized manner.
“The crime statistics do not show a significant increase in violence emanating from foreigners”
What are you doing as the Commissioner for Foreigners to de-escalate the heated atmosphere?
Klaus: This is only possible through discussions and background information on the real facts. There is actually a nominal increase in the number of crimes committed by migrants in the area of the Görlitz police department. However, this is mainly due to criminal entry violations, which German citizens cannot commit, in connection with the recent significant increase in the number of refugees, many of whom come illegally.
However, the crime statistics do not indicate a significant increase in violence perpetrated by foreigners.
The accusation that problems with migrants are “homemade” can be heard again and again these days in Görlitz because politicians are unable to create the framework for successful integration. Does that apply to the district of Görlitz?
Klaus: In my view, this is not due to the willingness of the refugees and migrants. The will among foreigners to integrate in Germany, to learn the language and to work is above average in our country. You can see that from the total utilization of our language and integration courses, the volume of which we have tripled in the last twelve months.
Something else is the financial support that we receive from the state of Saxony. Unfortunately, other federal states are already much further along than we are. A weak point is that there is no obligation to finance a certain volume of integration offers in state legislation. This is a shortcoming that Saxon politics must eliminate quickly. Because we could do a lot more!
“There are too many legal and bureaucratic obstacles to deportation in German legislation”
And what about the work ban for asylum seekers? Doesn’t that inhibit integration and encourage people to slip into criminal structures, regardless of whether an asylum application is justified or not?
Klaus: In any case. We wish that the federal government would quickly relax the regulations here. The problem with the current legal situation is that migrants from safe countries of origin, who have little or no chance of a right to stay through our asylum law, are not allowed to work. They also receive transfer payments.
It would be more effective if it were possible for these people to work to earn a living. This relieves the welfare state and can make a significant contribution to integration, also as part of the chance stay.
And anyone who integrates and has a job, why shouldn’t they also be given a chance to stay if this enriches the labor market?
Slow deportation practice is repeatedly criticized in connection with migrants who have committed a crime. How do you see it?
Klaus: There are too many legal and bureaucratic obstacles in German legislation that could effectively enforce speedy deportations in the sense of a deterrent.
But the problem is not only a German one, it is also a European one. The EU is still pulling far too little in the same direction to effectively enforce deportations quickly – even in the case of illegal re-entry.