The Hamburg Senate has provided information on the situation of Afghan refugees in the Hanseatic city. The reason for this was a small question in the citizenship as to how many of the Afghans who have come to Hamburg in recent years have regular jobs and how many live on state support.
This is the information from the Senate: Of the 28,485 Afghans who lived in Hamburg as of 2022, 6,761 were employed subject to social security contributions. 9027 received Hartz IV or citizen benefit, as Hartz IV is now called. 4124 received benefits under the Asylum Seekers Act, 2071 social assistance.
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I checked the feedback. The SPD and the Greens, who form the government in Hamburg, don’t want to know exactly. And the CDU shows only moderate interest. As is so often the case in the migration debate: people prefer to close their eyes and hope that the problems will take care of themselves. It all works a bit like magical thinking: out of sight, out of mind. Unfortunately, reality is difficult to overcome with magic.
In Hamburg, too, workers are desperately needed. Anyone who wants to make themselves useful will find employment. So there may be good reasons why the majority of Afghan refugees are unemployed. However, it is not due to a lack of offers.
They say we have an integration problem. I would definitely disagree with that. We have no problem with Chileans coming to us. Or South Koreans. Or Vietnamese. Not even with Finns, Thais or Chinese.
We have a problem with immigrants from Turkish, Afghan and Arab families.
We have no problem with German-Chinese
Not only are there clear indications that the number of those who depend on state support is highest here. Almost always, where someone with a so-called migration background goes too far, you also end up in this cultural group. I’ve never heard of the German-Chinese harassing other bathers in outdoor pools. Or the German-Malays who maraud through their neighborhood on New Year’s Eve.
What went wrong? The first generation of immigrants, mostly from Turkey, consisted of hard-working people. We also owe the fact that Germany became a paradise of prosperity to the commitment of Hatice, Ali and Mustafa. There was always the idea of erecting a memorial to the unknown guest worker. I would be for it in a heartbeat. These people deserve to be remembered for their lifetime achievements.
But at some point things went astray. The strange thing is that especially in Muslim families, a lot of value is usually placed on respect and politeness. No one in Turkey, Syria or Morocco would scold the teacher for getting a bad grade, or take on the law enforcement officers if they were feeling down. On the contrary, during my travels through the Muslim world, I have always found the people there to be particularly friendly and considerate.
We are doing something wrong in Germany
One explanation would be that it is mainly the troublemakers who come to us from countries like Morocco. The other would be that we are doing something wrong in Germany. I lean towards the latter explanation. I think we took a wrong turn when we started telling people that circumstances are to blame when the son-man turns into a ne’er-do-well.
I was a member of the German Islam Conference for three years. I have no idea who I owed the invitation to, but one day a friendly-sounding employee of the Federal Ministry of the Interior called and asked if I had the time and interest in contributing my experiences as a journalist.
You have to think of the Islam Conference as a long therapy session where everyone describes in detail what injustice is being done or can be done to them as a member of an ethnic minority in Germany. The dialogue consisted of assuring each other how disadvantaged foreigners and their descendants are in Germany. So the meetings were rather one-sided. One half described the fate of the migrants, the other half sat there and looked concerned.
It became quiet in the Islam Conference
Only once did an unpleasant incident occur, when a young German-Turkish woman took the floor, a professor of business law at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Bernburg, as I gathered from the daily documents. She is tired of cultural differences being used as an excuse not to get up with the kids in the morning and to neglect her homework after school. “There is a latent acceptance in the Turkish community for parents who bring up their children badly, they find understanding they don’t deserve,” she said.
It got very quiet in the room. The leader of the meeting, a Mr. Frehse from the policy department of the Ministry of the Interior, looked at his papers in embarrassment and then suggested a coffee break. As I found out later, the professor came from a guest worker family in Wedding, the father worked in a chocolate factory, the mother also worked on the assembly line, four girls, all with high school diplomas, she was the youngest professor who had received a chair in Germany to date.
I would have found it fascinating to learn more about how she managed to work her way up. But that didn’t happen. The next time she wasn’t there.
What can you do? It doesn’t help, I’m afraid, we have to go back to the citizens’ allowance. As long as we promise people that if they don’t work, they’ll have just as much money, we shouldn’t be surprised if they decide not to work.
I know the poor children! That’s the argument that inevitably comes up when you talk about welfare levels: do you want to abandon the poor kids?
The truth is, the number of needy children has dropped dramatically, by a third since 2015. The fact that the number of underage Hartz IV recipients is still stagnating at two million is due to the fact that the arrival of refugee families overshadows the decline in Germany.
Our forbearance is interpreted as stupidity
In any case, it is a misconception that more state aid would mean more equal opportunities. Any social worker can tell you where the extra money goes: not in books and felt-tip pens. I know that sounds terribly cliché, but the cliché is also a cliché because it has a kernel of truth.
We expect gratitude. We believe that our generosity will be repaid with good behavior. If the poor migrant does not work because he has calculated that it is not worthwhile, he should at least behave inconspicuously in return.
But that’s not how it works. We good Germans cannot imagine that our forbearance will be interpreted as stupidity. In the world between Sonnenallee and Karl-Marx-Strasse, a state that allows itself to be fooled is not admired but despised.
Anyone who gives money to the idler, even though he has two healthy hands, is not considered reasonable, but stupid. People like Katrin Göring-Eckardt are a joke here that makes you shake your head. Those who allow themselves to be taken advantage of don’t deserve better – that’s the logic of the street. When in doubt, they smack him over the head because weakness is despised. And definitely weak is anyone who lets themselves be led around by the nose.
Maybe we should get a little more Arabic. If immigration, then right. I have an idea of how a German-Arab would react to someone trying to take advantage of him. Let’s put it this way: the answer would be so tangible that it couldn’t be posted at any Green party conference.
Read all of Jan Fleischhauer’s columns here.