“Wir schaffen das”: Is it a reality?

Written by: Emily Janicik

Angela Merkel’s famous slogan “wir schaffen das,” which she originally introduced in 2015 in response to the refugee crisis in Europe, translates in English to “we can do it.” After three years of tackling the difficult issue of world migration, however, many Germans are becoming disillusioned with this sentiment. 

In 2015, Germany accepted over 800,000 refugees from mainly Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea. There was some criticism within both Germany and the EU more broadly, where leaders like Marine Le Pen claimed that Germany’s acceptance of so many refugees encouraged illegal border crossing. Overall, though, the response was positive from world leaders towards Germany’s actions in trying times. 

The German government is still accepting refugees, albeit considerably fewer compared to 2015. Most recently, 10,000 refugees from North Africa/Middle East arrived in Germany, ready  to begin their new lives. The challenge, however, does not end after refugees make it to a safe country but rather continues as these individuals attempt to establish themselves in that country. Programs have been established to help the refugees acclimate culturally, but finding employment without the proper credentials can be challenging and moving out of emergency hostels into permanent housing is nearly impossible for low-income people living in urban areas. Refugees are also competing against other migrants from the EU for language classes, making integration more difficult. Although steps have been taken in the right direction to help refugees to Europe assimilate, they have not always been successful. 

While some in Germany have been concerned that the refugees will put stress on the German economy, the opposite effect has occurred. For example, job creation has skyrocketed. 650,000 jobs will be created in 2018 alone, and although only 100,000 of these will be serviced by refugees, employment in refugee populations has increased by 60%, a major improvement compared to previous years. As Enzo Weber stated in an article from DW: “Generally speaking, the high increases in employment we’ve had in the past few years in Germany would not have been possible without immigration.” Without refugees, in other words, the German economy would not have seen the boom that it has. 

Nevertheless, there is still opposition to Germany’s current refugee policies. Many are worried that German culture will become diluted as more and more foreigners enter the country’s borders. Conservative politicians, like those from the Alternative fur Deutschland, have tried to exploit the difference between migrants and refugees for political gain. Many cities are struggling to deal with the large influx of refugees and have petitioned to not accept any more

In response, Merkel used a large portion of her first speech to the Bundestag to address refugees in German society. She promoted a policy of inclusion towards Islam and acknowledged that the religion is one of the fastest growing in Germany. However, Merkel also stated that the German government plans on deporting migrants who are there illegally to help direct resources towards refugees. Additionally, the German-Austrian border has introduced checkpoints to stop people from illegally crossing the border, an unprecedented move since the beginning of the Eurozone. 

Looking towards the future, Merkel has to deal with the difficult task of integrating refugees into German society while dealing with rising German conservatism. While the refugees might survive in their current living situations, becoming a part of an ever-changing culture is an arduous proposition. This brings “wir schaffen das” into question: can Germany actually do it?