Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Germany and the New Folks?

I sat last night and watched state-run ZDF (channel two) news here in Germany.  The big chunk of the news was about the refugee crisis and what is in the funnel currently.

So, they had a reporter down in Macedonia and were at some railway station.  From the view of the camera, I'd take a guess that at least four-thousand people were crowded around the station and waiting for this train to pull in.  The village was the first place you'd come to in Macedonia....if you crossed the border of Greece.

Gevgelelija was the name of this village.  Typically, it's a small town of 15,500-odd people....not known for much but having this one railway station.  As the train doors opened.....the camera guy caught the action.  I'd take a guess that each single car had at least 400 people onboard (typically built for 100-150 passengers).  If they could have ridden on the roof (like in India), they would have done so.  The train eventually pulled out of town, leaving behind a couple hundred folks who simply wouldn't fit on.  The suggested thought was that another train would be there within a number of hours and the rest of them would leave on it.

The ARD crew did a decent job and tried to explain this route that has developed.  Everyone pays money for some ship/boat crew to get them near Greece.  They land near the mainland and then walk their way up to the border, then trek through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, and then through Austria.

You can figure this 'hike' or walk is in the range of 1,600 kilometers (roughly 1,000 miles).  From April to October, it's a fairly decent walk and you could make it with no cars, taxis, or trains.....in about 55 days (figure 30 kilometers minimum per day).  If you throw in three or four train rides, especially through Hungary and Austria....you might be able to do the trip in 15 days.

No one, at least from what the German news folks have shown.....is making any attempt to slow these people down except the fencing crew in Hungary (they've got several crews working on a crew to put a fence up across the Serbian front).  Naturally, it'll just take minutes for any refugee to figure the next route through Romania or Croatia, and the Hungarians will have to go back to work and spend tens of millions to extend the fence.  Action by Romania or Croatia?  I wouldn't expect much.....they knew the refugees won't stay.....they all are thinking Germany.

At some point in July, the Germans say they crossed the 500,000 refugee point entering the country.  Over the past two weeks, with more reports coming in.....one gets the impression that there's probably a minimum of 300,000 people in the pipeline just right now.  How many more will start the trip in September and try to make it by December?  Unknown....but it's pretty easy to see the one-million-plus number being discussed.

One discussion over the weekend popped up that the Germans have figured out from economic refugees (mostly from Albania)....it's mostly guys who've left their families behind, and the general intent is to simply get into Germany....get to some camp.....start collecting 'pocket-money' issued for each week/month and just save it up.  After four or five months in the camp and denied permanent status to stay....they go back home and the whole family lives off their collected pocket-money for six to eight months.  The Germans say they will create a voucher deal, where you get this voucher which is only good for a certain amount of time and only good for German stores.  In that case, it's a wasted trip for the economic traveler.

The other folks?  Well, it's generally accepted that if you come from Eritrea or Iraq, or Syria.....you will get permanent status.

How long does the episode continue on?  You really don't have that question being asked by the German news media.  I don't think they really want to answer that.  No one wants to imagine that 2016 will mean another one-million-plus refugees or immigrants entering Germany.  And with 2017 as the next big election year....you can sense that the political folks need some solution in play by spring of 2016 or it becomes a one-topic election and some right-wing party appears out of nowhere to disestablish both the CDU and the SPD.

I read some short piece this morning, with the UN high commissioner noting that some plan has to be created where Europe 'shares' these refugees.  This has become such a hot political topic that it's hard to imagine where enthusiasm would be created for dumping 5,000 or 20,000 refugees on some country that really doesn't want them.  You can conceptualize Finland coming into this mess and taking 15,000 such refugees but they wake up to find the train dumped them off a hundred miles south of the Arctic Circle in Finland in a village that is mostly non-existent since the 1960s because the factories all shut down.  The odds of these guys staying in such a condition?  Zero.

At some point last night, the news guy got onto the topic of cellphones.  Oddly, most of these guys have cellphones that they've acquired.  It's not readily explain and maybe it's something that the smugglers sold them or what they picked up in Greece.  But they use the cellphones to communicate....take pictures along the way.....and figure out their GPS point on the map and where to head onto next. In some ways, I admire their cleverness and ingenuity.

I'm not a German and personally.....I don't care if 50 people come or a million people come.  I simply look at the whole process and kinda wonder....once they get here to Germany....are they really aware of what they've signed up for?

It's kinda like a trip to Disneyland and you see all these wonderful pictures and advertisements of a grand place with jobs, paved roads, twenty-four-a-day electricity, and a marvelous culture.  About six hours into arriving at Disneyland.....you start to be amazed over the cost of food, the expensive gas prices, the striking 19-percent VAT sales tax, and the jobs that do exist are mostly the minimum wage situations.  About a week into the experience, you question yourself and how much effort you put into this journey and how Disneyland-Deutschland just isn't that astonishing place you imagined.

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