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We can do it! (Wir schaffen das!). Germany and the European refugee crisis.

January 4, 2016

Professor Joachim Kersten
Deutsche Hochschule der Polizei, Münster, Germany
Wednesday, January 20,2016 at 4 PM
Buffett Institute 1902 Sheridan Road

When in November 2015 German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the borders to the neighboring countries, hundreds of thousands of war refugees and asylum seekers entered into Germany. Merkel, generally not known for outbursts of empathy and humanitarian concern, exclaimed, “Wir schaffen das!” That is to say, the German federal and state governments (Bund and Länder), and the German citizens will be able to cope and will welcome the thousands of men, women and children fleeing war and poverty. Hence, many Germans went to the train stations to welcome the new arrivals bringing donations of food, water, and clothing.

But can Germany really do this? Can it navigate the refugee influx and insure the successful integration of a million people from significantly different cultures and religious denominations? Chancellor Merkel’s decision has initiated a new debate of what it is to be German. Controversies abound: not just among average Germans, but also among Dr. Merkel's own government and party members. To outsiders, Germany and the Germans have an image that oscillates between careful academic analysis on the one hand, and Fawlty Towers (Don't mention the War) and Hogan's Heroes on the other. Will this new debate change this image? The new situation is a bit of a surprise to many, academics, media people, and average Germans alike.

Aside from the political debate in Germany and among EU member states, there are practical concerns and challenges to contend with: what is expected and what are the roles of local governments, city administrations, professional or voluntary aid groups and individuals who take refugees into their home? There are new (or old?) xenophobic and anti-Islam protest movements and demonstrations in the cities. Is this a return of the Weimar unrest between the extreme left and right? And finally, there are obvious security issues related to roughly one million newcomers. How do police at the borders and in the cities and small towns cope with the situation? The presentation will address these issues and there will be time for comments, questions and answers.

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