As Germany welcomes thousands of refugees, with industries seeking ways to integrate newcomers into country’s workforce, Berlin’s move to temporarily bypass EU-wide regulations has met strong criticism from France’s Marine Le Pen who accused Germany of recruiting “slaves.”
The German drive to open its doors to refugees, as well as debated plans to resettle asylum seekers across the EU has been met with strong criticism from a number of politicians, including the leader of right-wing French party National Front, Marine Le Pen who accused Germany of imposing its immigration policy on the EU.
“Germany probably thinks its population is moribund, and it is probably seeking to lower wages and continue to recruit slaves through mass immigration,” Marine Le Pen said in Marseille, refusing to admit that pure benevolence was Germany’s only motive.
Le Pen criticised European politicians for “exploiting the suffering of these poor people who cross the Mediterranean Sea.”
“They are exploiting the death of the unfortunate in these trips organized by mafia, they show pictures, they exhibit the death of a child without any dignity just to blame the European consciences and make them accept the current situation,” the National Front leader said.
Following days of chaos and uncertainty, thousands of refugees – mostly Syrians – were bused from Hungary to Austria, and then brought by train to Germany, after the countries agreed on allowing migrants access, bypassing the Dublin Regulation.
By Sunday night almost 11,000 migrants arrived in Germany, authorities in Munich said. Germany in August registered more than 100,000 asylum seekers with some 800,000 refugees overall expected to come to Germany in total this year – four times the level of last year.
However, Le Pen blamed Germany for its policies which will affect the whole of the European Union.
“Germany seeks not only to rule our economy, it wants to force us to accept hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers,” she said, adding that France would not its doors to the “world’s misery.”
While the French National Front leader criticized German actions and their potential knock-on effect in the EU, Turkish PM Ahmed Davutoglu said that German portion of the refugees influx is “ridiculously small.” He accused the EU of building a“Christian fortress” in Europe, pointing out that Turkey had already accommodated more than two million people from Syria and Iraq.
The Turkish PM’s comments came in reply to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s statements calling for the defense of Europe’s prosperity, identity and “Christian values” against Muslim migrants. On Sunday, the Hungarian PM, accused Germany of exacerbating the refugee crisis.
“As long as Austria and Germany don’t say clearly that they won’t take in any more migrants, several million new immigrants will come to Europe,” Orban told Austrian broadcaster ORF.
Austria has already announced that it planned to end emergency measures that have allowed thousands of refugees in Hungary entry into Austria and Germany, but provided no exact details.
“We have always said this is an emergency situation in which we must act quickly and humanely. We have helped more than 12,000 people in an acute situation,” Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said. “Now we have to move step-by-step away from emergency measures toward normality, in conformity with the law and dignity.”
Meanwhile even in the face of criticism, the Germans are doing everything to warmly welcome and help the newcomers. Berlin plans to introduce a supplementary budget to free up funds for the refugees while the business elite is looking to utilize migrant skills to close the gap in the lack of professional and skilled labor on the market.
On Saturday German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that hosting the migrants will cost the government, federal states and municipalities 10 billion euros this year as opposed to 2.4 billion euros in 2014. Angela Merkel meanwhile announced that Germany can cope with refugees without raising taxes.
Big businesses are optimistic about prospects for integrating the refugees into the German workforce, as an aging population in the country and low birth rate are eating away at its pool of skilled labor.
“If we can integrate them quickly into the jobs market, we’ll be helping the refugees, but also helping ourselves as well,” the head of the powerful BDI industry federation, Ulrich Grillo, said this week, cited by AFP.
Germany with its 6.4 percent unemployment rate is still short of 140,000 engineers, programmers and technicians. The healthcare and leisure sectors are also low on skilled workers, with sociological research showing that shortage of qualified workers will rise to 1.8 million in 2020. If nothing is done to reverse the trend as many as 3.9 million jobs will need to be filled by 2040.
The influx of migrants could therefore be the answer as many of them are young and have “really good qualifications,” said Grillo.
Meanwhile the flow of migrants risking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean shows no sign of easing. More than 2,600 have died this year making the journey. But despite the massive influx of refugees and the flawed EU asylum system, the UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres said the crisis was “manageable.”
“The European asylum system is deeply dysfunctional, it works badly. Some countries make the necessary effort, and the effort of many others is nearly non-existent,” he told French radio station RFI and the TV5Monde television channel.
Guterres’s comments came as German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble urged EU states to “act together” to come up with a single EU-wide policy. Faymann meanwhile said there is “no alternative to a common European solution.”
On Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is scheduled to present a plan to relocate 120,000 refugees from Italy, Greece and Hungary. Under the new arrangement Germany is to accept a further 31,000 migrants, followed by France with 24,000 and Spain with almost 15,000, Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported.