Those Refugees Aren't Refugees, and Aren't Even Poor

As the Wall Street Journal reports, via Steve Sailer, many of the 'refugees' coming across the Mediterranean to Europe are, as this blog has pointed out repeatedly, anything but: 

Senegal is a stable West African democracy, and Kothiary has profited from the currents of globalization transforming rural Africa’s more prosperous areas. Flat screen TVs and, increasingly, cars—mostly purchased with money wired home by villagers working in Europe—have reshaped what was once a settlement of mud huts. The wealth has plugged this isolated landscape of peanut farms and baobab trees into the global economy and won respect for the men who sent it.

But it has also put European living standards on real-time display, and handed young farm hands the cash to buy a ticket out. …

They leave behind a proud democracy whose steady economic growth has brought American-style fast food chains, cineplexes and shopping malls to this nation of 15 million, but hasn’t kept pace with the skyrocketing aspirations of the youthful population. Dusty and remote villages like Kothiary have become an unlikely ground zero for this exodus. …

The number of Senegalese jumped 123% from the first four months of last year, which also saw record emigration. West Africa houses several of the world’s faster-growing economies but is also sending some of the most migrants out. …

Students there, Mr. Sidibé included, have cashed out their scholarships to pay traffickers for a ride to Tripoli. Even their professors have traded in paychecks to journey north, joining policemen, civil servants and teachers, said Souleymane Jules Diop, the country’s minister for emigrants.

“People don’t go because they have nothing, they go because they want better and more,” said Mr. Diop. “It’s aspiration.”


Tomorrow's Views Today

Me, yesterday:

Hardly a day goes by without some pundit, usually American, chastising Germany for having a barely-functional military and for staying out of most international conflicts. 

American pundit Roger Cohen, today:

But a fundamental problem remains. Postwar Germany is in essence a pacifist power. Mention of force is near anathema to the vast majority of the German people. Arming Ukraine to level the playing field (and so bolster the chances of diplomacy) is of course rejected by Merkel; it should not have been.


The Success of Germany's Cautious, Self-Interested Foreign Policy

Parke Nicholson joins the chorus of Americans urging Germany to increase military spending intervene more abroad foreign policy. Problem is, Germans don’t want this:

A majority of the German public for the first time favors an “independent approach” from the United States. Yet besides spending more on foreign aid, most prefer to “continue to exercise restraint” in dealing with international crises, and there is a deep ambivalence about the use of military force or sanctions. Although it is true that Germany remains constrained by its past, its recent success may have also instilled in it a sense of complacency. 

For example, Germany is often singled out for its meager defense spending. Although Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble recently announced a six percent increase in defense spending over the next five years, much of this will replace aging equipment and infrastructure, and overall spending will remain small relative to the country’s size. More frustrating to American observers, however, is the government’s reluctance to openly discuss security challenges and commit to planning for future contingencies. This is odd given that Germany provided the third-largest contingent of troops in Afghanistan and well over 200,000 soldiers to international peacekeeping missions since 1993….

In the longer term, Germany must recognize that it can no longer simply remain a convening power and rely on the initiative of other “shaping powers,” the European Union, or the United States. It will have to better articulate and publicly defend its foreign interests. Meekly reflecting on its limitations is an excuse to avoid responsibility and take concrete steps when international rules are ignored. If Germany wants to forge a stronger Europe and a peaceful world order, it needs to ignore the hype about its power and think more courageously about how to use it.

At another point in the article, Nicholson states without proof: ‘Nor can Germany truly shape, let alone protect, open markets for its goods without the backbone of U.S. military power.’

Hardly a day goes by without some pundit, usually American, chastising Germany for having a barely-functional military and for staying out of most international conflicts. Usually, the argument boils down to: "We're the only ones who are combating Al-Shabbab in the Horn of Africa and ISIS and the Houthis and the Taliban and al-Nusra and Chinese demands for islands and Russians in the Ukraine and a thousand other global threats and what are the Germans doing to help us? Nada! Germany, you're rich and popular and still have a semblance of a military -- start meddling in dozens of foreign conflicts!"

To which most Germans respond: Why? Germany faces no direct or indirect military threat. Its citizens overwhelmingly oppose sending troops into harm's way in remote places. What on earth would that achieve, other than dragging Germany into conflicts where its interests aren't at stake and making it a target? With no threats at home and no reason to interfere abroad, Germany hardly needs a military at all.

Its leaders prefer not to hector other countries about human-rights issues, especially when that would get in the way of lucrative contracts. The author provides no instance of American military power helping Germany economically, and I can't think of one. And the proof of the pudding is in the eating: Germany's the most popular country in the world, and one of the most prosperous, and much of the credit goes to its low-key foreign policy. Why would it change course?


Germany's Refugee-Resettlement Plans Praised

 Germany's migrant policies get a cautiously optimistic review from Canadian journalist Doug Saunders: 

What about all those tens of thousands of Syrians, Eritreans and Iraqis who don’t end up bobbing lifeless in the Mediterranean or steered at gunpoint back to the southern shore? Where do they wind up?

The answer, overwhelmingly, is found here on the western edge of Germany, in the urban quilt around the Rhine and Main rivers. It is here, the booming heartland of the world’s most successful economy, that perhaps the greatest concentration of the war-weary of Africa and Asia are being received, sorted, cleaned up and placed in (figurative and literal) boxes.

No other country comes close to hosting so many fleeing people: Last year, Germany received 173,000 refugee applications (and accepted most), a third of Europe’s total and more than twice as many as the second-place country, Sweden. (Canada took 13,000 refugees last year, and expects 16,000 this year.) It is a human tide not seen since the Balkan wars of the 1990s, when as many as 438,000 refugees a year came to Germany.

In Germany...the public and their politicians are receiving the majority of Europe’s refugees with surprising calm, even optimism. While there was a brief flare-up of anti-immigrant politics earlier this year in cities of the former East Germany (where there are almost no immigrants to be found), those died away quickly. Here, even refugee advocates say they’re surprised by the broadly positive reception.

“I am really amazed at how much this country has changed – even a decade ago this would have created anger and distrust, but today I’m hearing nothing but welcome for the new refugees – people are being really open,” says Zerai Kiros Abraham, a former Eritrean refugee who now runs Project Moses, a refugee-settlement charity in Frankfurt.

They particularly want the Syrians, who tend to be middle-class and have the professional degrees and technical skills needed here...

It helps considerably that Germany has recently ended its policy of banning refugees from seeking employment: This had left many earlier asylum seekers loitering in public squares and shopping malls, falling into marginal lives and giving a bad image to immigrants in general – and depriving Germany of badly needed labour. Now they can work after three months, and employers and municipalities are pressuring Berlin to let them work sooner.

The optimism may be short-lived: Refugees, unlike immigrants, often have a difficult time settling, as they lack the language ability, the savings and connections needed to start businesses, and are often deeply traumatized. For now, the big question, across the country, is where to house them all. Many are living in thousands of state-issued shipping-container shelters, which are a blot on the landscape and tend to become undesirable.

Saunders is cherry-picking here: he focuses only on refugees: people who are actually fleeing war and persecution. Not a word about the 'refugees' from Eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. Still, it's good to see the foreign press looking past the spray-painted swastikas for once.


Put the 'Refugees' in Prenzlauer Berg!

So, Germany's going to be inundated this year with up to 500,000 unsolicited immigrants, who for some reason are referred to as 'refugees' by most mainstream German media outlets even though most aren't. Meanwhile, Germany already has a backlog of 200,000 asylum applications, and local governments are begging for billions of Euro (g) -- not millions, billions -- to house, feed, and monitor these immigrants, as well as processing their asylum requests and teaching them German. Many cities have had to shut down sports facilities (g) and pack thousands of people into them.

Something like half of these refugees, if not more, come from West Balkan states. There is currently no war in those states and they are government by more-or-less democratic governments, so there is no justification in German law for them to receive asylum unless they can prove a specific threat to themselves, which most of them can't. Many of the immigrants come from Bulgaria and Romania, which are EU Member States.

These people need to be warehoused before their (mostly unverifiable and unprovable) asylum claims are evaluated, so governments are either requisitioning or hastily erecting housing. And where do they put the immigrants? In the areas with the cheapest rent, of course! Where they live right next to working- and lower-middle-class Germans who don't want them there and don't want them allowed to compete for German jobs. This, of course, leads to immigrant housing being defaced and damaged, and to right-wing rallies. The arson and defacement are ugly criminal behavior, but anyone who didn't see this coming is a fool. Many on the German left derive tremendous satisfaction from denouncing the racism of the working-class Germans who resent refugees, but I can't help noticing that these self-righteous fulminations don't actually help anyone. Perhaps the leftists should be working on developing magic pixie dust which will make working-class people approve of a large influx of foreigners.

A friend of mine who probably would like to remain nameless proposed a simple answer to housing refugees in Germany. Find out which neighborhoods have the highest number of open borders / quasi open-borders supporters (Green party vote % could be a proxy). Then put all the refugees in those neighborhoods. Putting the immigrants where people don't want them is a recipe for disaster. Put them instead among the people who claim to want them there! Surely the bien pensant left-liberal urbanites who urge Germany to open its borders won't have a problem with the apartment next to theirs being requisitioned by the state to house an extended family of 10 Roma from Bucharest. I'm sure they will also volunteer to teach immigrants German in evening classes after they leave their day jobs as graphic designers and marketing consultants . And isn't converting your basketball, volleyball, or handball court to shelters a small price to pay for humanity? You could also move all the treadmills and stairsteppers out of your €80-per-month Holmes Places gym if more room were needed.

Prenzlauer Berg, get ready to have your lifestyle cash the checks your ideology has been writing!*

* Adding, just to prevent confusion, the target of my mockery is reality-denying German fantasists, not the immigrants themselves. Refugees from war zones certainly should be relocated in Germany. And you can hardly blame people from rural Albania or Romania for wanting to get out of those places. If I were them, I would try to get into stable, prosperous Germany, too! But that doesn't mean Germany has any moral duty to oblige these people, and it certainly doesn't mean Germany has the practical ability to host them all. They should be processed quickly, and sent back. Except, of course, as Franziska Giffey, the Social Democratic mayor of Neukölln notes, Germany has no way of knowing if they actually did go back when they were ordered to.


You Read it First Here

Over a year ago, I predicted we might well learn that the German intelligence service, the BND, was probably doing all sorts of things that Germans might well disapprove of if they knew about them:

German spy agencies have extremely broad powers under existing law, and will gain new ones under the new Telecommunications Law which takes effect on 1 July. There is a parliamentary committee which provides general oversight of requests for surveillance and a so-called G-10 committee which rules on individual requests. They are supposed to follow strict minimization procedures and insist on adequate proof of possible wrongdoing before authorizing spying measures. However, since both of these committees operate in secret, we have no way of knowing how carefully these guidelines are respected. Plus, since there have been no German whistleblowers, we have no real insight into the scope of German programs. As the Green Party speaker Konstantin von Notz recently remarked, it is high time that Germans learned more about what their own spy agency is up to.

Nevertheless, I am shocked, shocked to find out the BND has been delivering data to the NSA for years (g). Shocked!


The Coming Exodus from Baltimore

I've been getting, and refusing, a few German press inquiries about recent events in Baltimore. I don't do hot-take live interviews. Someone was arrested and suffered a fatal injury; we are still a long way from knowing all there is to know about that incident.

Another reason I didn't give an interview is I have nothing new or reassuring to say. American cities occasionally erupt in riots after high-profile sporting events or police killings, something that happens in poor parts of cities across the globe. 67%-black Baltimore itself has been a watchword for urban despair for generations, as the 1977 Randy Newman song Baltimore shows:

Hard times in the city

In a hard town by the sea

Ain't nowhere to run to

There ain't nothin' here for free

 

Hooker on the corner

Waitin' for a train

Drunk lyin' on the sidewalk

Sleepin' in the rain

 

And they hide their faces

And they hide their eyes

'Cause the city's dyin'

And they don't know why

 

Oh, Baltimore

Man, it's hard just to live

Oh, Baltimore

Man, it's hard just to live, just to live

Baltimore's problems were also clinically dissected 30 years later in The Wire. Most talented people with valuable job skills have already left Baltimore, unless they are associated with medical or university institutions located there. Whenever poor parts of American cities burn, politicians usually convene a blue-ribbon commission, a report is issued, and there are various halfhearted efforts at urban revitalization for a few years afterward. Here is a recommendation from a 1965 report issued after rioting in the Watts area of Los Angeles:

We propose that the programs for the schools in disadvantaged areas be vastly reorganized and strengthened so as to strike at the heart of low achievement and break the cycle of failure. We advocate a new, massive, expensive, and frankly experimental onslaught on the problem of illiteracy. We propose that it be attacked at the time and place where there is an exciting prospect of success.

The program for education which we recommend is designed to raise the scholastic achievement of the average Negro child up to or perhaps above the present average achievement level in the City. We have no hard evidence to prove conclusively that the program advocated in this report will accomplish this purpose. 

Then attention fades, the money dries up, and conditions regress to the mean. I see no reason this time will be different. A few years or decades from now, Baltimore or some other city will burn, and again people will wonder at the fact that nothing has changed, and the people there are just as desperate and poor as they were before.

There are a few reasons for this eternal recurrence of the exact same debates. First, many problems of poor inner-city areas cannot be solved. Other problems could theoretically be solved, but doing so would involve huge investments of money, talent, time, and patience. People usually claim to be sympathetic to the problems of inner-city residents, but most voters don't want large amounts of their tax money diverted to try to fix their problems. I suspect the advice most Americans would give to residents of Baltimore is: 'Leave'.

Forcibly busing poor kids to rich areas and vice versa -- to combat racial segregation -- was tried once in America and turned out to be a disaster. This isn't just an American problem, either: Malmö, Stockholm, Paris, Marseille, Copenhagen all have heavily-immigrant problem zones that erupt into rioting once every few years. (Germany is an interesting counter-example). If even the world's most social-democratic countries can't find the resources, solutions, and political will to create lasting, meaningful improvements to life in urban poverty pockets, there's no chance the USA will.

So the exodus from Baltimore will continue.


African Immigrants and the Peter Singer Problem

Those who advocate open borders, or at least a huge liberalization of EU immigration policy, have an ally in the influential Australian philosopher Peter Singer, who has argued that all people in the West must make painful financial sacrifices of most of their disposable income to help the world's poor:

Peter Singer has argued in Practical Ethics (1993) that you are morally deficient if you eat meat, or if you fail to give a good bit of your income – 5% if you earn more than $100,000, and at least 10% of income over $150,000 – to help the world’s most destitute. It’s actually worse than that. If you take Singer’s arguments seriously, you should be giving nearly everything you have to charity. (Singer himself doesn’t go that far, giving away only 20% of his income. Nobody’s perfect.)

...Singer’s basic argument is simple, relying on two main principles. Somewhat paraphrased, these principles are, first, maximize pleasure and minimize suffering; and second, all pleasure or suffering counts equally. (Because of Singer’s particular interests, the bit about minimizing suffering plays a larger role than the bit about maximizing pleasure.) You can question how to apply these principles in particular situations, but for Singer there are no principles more fundamental.

One immediate consequence of Singer’s principles is that animal suffering should weigh as heavily in your decisions as human suffering: that’s part of what he means by ‘all suffering counts equally.’ Animals may not suffer as much as humans, but whatever their suffering, it’s as significant as an equal amount of human suffering.

Another consequence of treating everyone’s – sorry, every organism’s – suffering the same, is that your suffering doesn’t count more than anyone else’s. Since there are so many people in the world who suffer more than you, it follows that you should give a substantial part of your wealth to alleviate that suffering...

To convince you that you should give more of your wealth to alleviate suffering, Singer uses a persuasive analogy. Suppose you see a child drowning in a pool. You can rescue the child at no danger to yourself, but at the cost of ruining your new suit (PE, p.229). Clearly, you are morally obliged to wade in, suit be damned. But, says Singer, if you are a moderately well-off citizen of a first world nation, donating 10% of your income to CARE or Oxfam will similarly relieve much suffering, with only a modest impingement on your lifestyle (p.222). As with the drowning child, you can’t just walk by. You have to grab your chequebook and wade on in.

Using similar principles, Singer concludes that you must be a vegetarian, 'that you shouldn’t give your own children extraordinary advantages' and that we should encourage very old people to kill themselves -- perhaps even kill them ourselves -- so that we can spend the €200,000 it costs to prolong Grandma's life for 4 months to immunize 1000 poor children. Some of these things Peter Singer believes, others are thought experiments designed to foster discussion (and boy, do they ever). He cheerfully admits people will never do most of these things, but they should.

I don't know whether Peter Singer has endorsed open borders between Europe and Africa, but I can imagine he would. And therein lies the problem: almost no Westerners have ever lived up to Peter Singer's idea of completely moral conduct, and they never will. And most of them are OK with that, don't like being scolded as immoral, and think that they are nevertheless decent people. The counter-arguments to Singer are manifold, starting with Hume, who declares it to be perfectly normal and understandable that we care more about those closest to us than those far distant. (The linked article sets out all the critiques). Catholic social teaching holds the same view. And virtually every human alive does too, especially if we judge them by their actions, not their words. Plus, you can't develop a workable ethical system without context-based compromises:

In real societies, and especially in large-scale modern societies, there are a profusion of competing ethical principles. In speaking of ‘competing principles’, I don’t just mean that different people have different principles (although they do), but that there are many principles, in competition with each other, guiding any single person’s actions. All those principles can’t all be true all the time. We harmonize them, to the extent we can, by adjusting the contexts in which we see them as applicable.

If ethical rules arise out of the rough and tumble of harmonizing our own interests, including our social impulses, with the interests of others, and with the contingencies thrown up by an infinitely-various natural world, then the rules we come up with are likely to be partial rules for the here and now, not universal rules which will work in all situations, especially those far from our experience; and there are likely to be a large number of rules, each applicable in a small if ill-defined context. For even the most basic ethical rule, there will be contexts where it clearly applies, contexts where it clearly doesn’t apply, and a large grey area in which there can be indecision and controversy. ‘Thou shalt not kill’, for example, is an unimpeachable moral principle, but we can still argue about its range of legitimate application. Self-defense? Just wars? Abortion? Euthanasia? Animals? Vegetables? Around the sizeable edges, there is plenty of room for dispute. It’s not a criticism of a rule to admit that it’s not always clear where it applies.


Why Not Get the Federation of Expellees on Your Side?

One thing that anti-death penalty forces in the US have been doing for years is reaching out to conservatives. Everyone knows all the arguments of lefty death penalty abolitionists and most people disagree with them. Usual suspects, heard it all before, etc. But when those arguments, or similar ones, come from conservatives, people may give the message a second chance. The movement against mass incarceration and capital punishment in the US has gained momentum recently in part because conservatives, not just the usual suspects, have joined in.

Why not reach out to the Federation of Expellees, or the Bund der Vertriebenen? This is the organization that represents the families of the 12 million Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after World War II. It's got a reputation for being right-wing in outlook, since some of the people who got expelled were either active Nazis or collaborators. But at the same time, these are people who claim to be intimately familiar with the wrenching agony of being displaced and dispossessed by war and its aftermath. They might be convinced to issue a statement saying that Europe should massively increase the number of refugees it will accept from Syria and Iraq, especially Christians and other religious minorities who face massacre by Islamic extremists. After all, it is their signature issue. Heck, they may even have already done this, but if so I can't find anything on their website. People would sit up and take notice if the Bund der Vertriebenen called for the German government to accept 200,000 Syrian war refugees from Lebanon and Turkey. Germany has the resources to settle 200,000 immigrants, and if they were all actual, documented refugees from war zones, the political will might exist as well.

This would not address the issue of economic refugees, but nothing is going to convince large numbers of Europeans to accept millions of new immigrants just because those people can't find good jobs at home. Many pro-immigrant groups seem to intentionally obfuscate the line of demarcation between economic refugees and those fleeing war and deadly persecution, lumping everyone together with feel-good slogans like 'No person is illegal'. But this is dumb and shortsighted, since the average citizen of an EU country is likely to have much more sympathy for war refugees than economic ones. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.


They Will Be Sent Back

The Guardian has seen a draft of the new EU plan for combating boat refugees:

Only 5,000 resettlement places across Europe are to be offered to refugees under the emergency summit crisis package to be agreed by EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday.

A confidential draft summit statement seen by the Guardian indicates that the vast majority of those who survive the journey and make it to Italy – 150,000 did so last year – will be sent back as irregular migrants under a new rapid-return programme co-ordinated by the EU’s border agency, Frontex. More than 36,000 boat survivors have reached Italy, Malta and Greece so far this year.

...

Instead, the EU leaders are likely to agree that immediate preparations should begin to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers”. The joint EU military operation is to be undertaken within international law.

But the head of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, said on the eve of the summit that saving migrants’ lives should not be the priority for his maritime patrols despite the clamour for a more humane response after the deaths of 800 refugees and migrants at the weekend.

Way back in February, your humble blog-master said:

Given a choice between opening Europe's borders and ruthlessly ratcheting up border controls, European leaders will mouth the appropriate platitudes about human rights and enhancing opportunity, then send out the warships to mine the Mediterranean. And in the cold hard light of political reality and modern statecraft, there is no reason they shouldn't, since that's what their voters prefer.

As long as European voters and societies are not willing and prepared to accept tens of millions of refugees from Africa and the Middle East -- and they're not -- this is the policy you're going to get. I would say there should be many more places devoted to actual refugees from war zones or facing imminent injury or death from ethnic persecution, since that is the core of what refugee protection is for. But to stop the pull factor, you'll need to destroy the boats before they can launch. If they do launch, rescue the refugees, process them, and then send them back unless they can prove they are not economic refugees.

This may sound harsh, but it will save lives in the long run. And if you think enforcing strict border controls is beyond the pale, have you noticed that Australia and the U.S. -- racially diverse nations composed (largely) of immigrants, which have a comparatively welcoming attitude towards foreigners -- have tight border control policies? President Obama, that notorious racist xenophobe, has presided over an unprecedented levels of deportations at the US-Mexican border, and has seen attempted border crossings drop.

Any announcement will bring the predictable denunciations, but that is pure signaling. People who have no constructive solutions for this thorny issue will nevertheless write self-congratulatory screeds denouncing whatever the EU does, and heaping scorn and vilification on EU policymakers. This makes them feel good, signals their superior morality, and does nothing to help refugees. If you want to liberalize EU immigration policy, you need to start at home, by convincing your fellow citizens that they should support such a move. And here's a pro-tip: calling them racists, xenophobes, and/or Bild-addled troglodytes may make you feel terribly virtuous, but it doesn't work.