Distant headaches over welcome world champions and other confusions

Chandra-Milena Danielzik argues that the current mainstream discourse in the FRG aka the self-profiling as ‘refugee supporter’ and as ‘welcome culture winner’ (co-)enables the legitimization of repressive asylum and migration policies. It also asks about failures of the German, White Left in recent years and to what extent today’s reactions are (in)adequate.

[Dieser Kommentar wurde Mitte September 2015 verfasst und muss im Kontext der damaligen Ereignisse gelesen werden.]

I myself have not been in Europe since the beginning of September 2015 and do not read the German media intensively at the moment. So my perspective comes from a distance in several senses, but perhaps an outside perspective and impressions gathered from afar are also helpful.

Someone who is currently in France wrote to me: “Here, many admire the German welcome culture and are annoyed by Hollande’s policy of sealing off the country. Left-wing activists in India tell me that Germany deals very well with refugees and, unlike other countries, has very refugee-friendly laws and policies.

The world is enthusiastic about Germany.


Government policy and Nazis seem to have shifted at least the public discourse on migration and asylum to the right and at the same time trampled everything that (not only) since the last 4 years of refugee/migration protests in Germany has been built up, reformulated, redefined, fought for. We’ve been to completely different points before. Now, all those who do not set fire to shelters with their own hands and who just simply undermine the right to asylum are already progressive when it comes to questions of flight and migration. And the organized left? Throws itself into the mix without strategy and actionism at first. And I consider that a mistake. It is important to build structures that participate in supra-regional networking in order to be able to quickly mobilize protection, support and presence. However, we also need to look at what is happening in society as a whole, and we are missing the moment – which has been approaching not only since the day before yesterday – when it is important to be awake and to intervene both discursively and concretely in the laws that are being passed; and these are a rollback that is crushing many people.

Because Merkel’s “but”, which we hear in government policy statements, is not just pure semantics. Rather, it means: “Refugees are welcome, but only the good ones; but only those who deserve it; human dignity is inviolable, but not necessarily that of all people; human life must be protected, but only if it is threatened by weapons of war. … One can easily become a humanist, when a “but” is so freely attached to the lives of some people …. Therefore it is even more important that we deport the ‘not-good’ ones, so that we have more capacities for the ‘good refugees’. This “but” is being written into law as we hold meetings at SO36 and talk about how to defend shelters against Nazis and organize convoys. Nazis are dangerous and bad and I get dizzy thinking about it. … And – not but – these and coming laws are the horror!

My thesis is that the current mainstream discourse aka the self-profiling as ‘refugee supporters’ and as ‘welcome culture winners’ (co-)enables the legitimization of repressive asylum and migration policies. The moral post to which Germany has just consigned itself can be used to judge, supposedly fairly, who are the ‘good guys’ and who are the ‘asylum parasites’. Refugee friends may deport. One is used to expel the other. Divide and Rule. A well-known strategy of domination. And it is precisely at this point that left-wing politics must behave and not allow itself to be put to sleep: “In the first half of 2015, most asylum seekers came from Syria (34,428), Kosovo (31,400), Albania (22,209) and Serbia (15,822). More than 40 percent of initial applications are made by people from the Western Balkans. Their rejection rate is around 90 percent [Author’s ed.].”(Tagesschau, 28.07.2015).

The power of a discourse lies in linking contradictions in such a way that they can no longer be perceived as mutually exclusive, but appear causal. Here from the Coalition Committee on 9/6/15:“This great wave of helpfulness and humanity, but also the economic strength of our country [wow, it’s actually capitalism that allows us to be good to other people, author’s note]. are the reason we can meet this challenge. We are grateful to the people of our country for this. But what is clear [BUT!, author’s note] also that we can only meet this challenge if we achieve success in the international fight against the causes of flight (civil wars, destabilization of entire states and terrorist threats).” The same paper draws the following conclusion: “Germany stands by its humanitarian and European commitments and expects the same from its partners. This includes compliance with the Dublin III Regulation […]. The admission decision made by Germany and Austria over the weekend should remain an exception.” Also: “We will examine whether further drop-in centers and facilities can be set up in North Africa, similar to those in Niger. … Visa offices in the missions abroad will be strengthened.” The latter means nothing other than further externalizing the EU borders and thus intercepting people already where they come from. Just last week, in which Germany wallowed in its refugee humanitarian generosity, this was decided here: From the Coalition Committee of 6.9.2015:


  • Cash requirements in initial reception facilities are to be replaced by non-cash benefits as far as possible.
  • Asylum seekers from safe countries of origin are to remain in the initial reception facilities until the end of the procedure. [> this is accompanied by the reintroduction of the residence obligation!, author’s note].
  • Payment of cash benefits should be made no more than one month in advance.
  • The maximum period for suspending deportations is reduced from 6 months to 3 months.”

A Spiegel commentary on the previous catalog of legislative changes, sums them up well: “In essence, the paper proposes: 1) to keep refugees from Balkan countries longer in initial reception facilities after their arrival. This is intended to ‘simplify and overall accelerate’ the end of the stay in Germany, once the asylum procedures have been completed. Behind the bureaucratic term is nothing less than rapid deportation.” An absolute disaster and massive step backwards behind what has already been fought for. And it goes on: a Tagesschau report of 7/29/15 quotes Manfred Schmidt, president of the BAMF, as saying,“We also have to consider whether countries like Albania and Kosovo are not also safe countries of origin.” Schmidt goes on to argue for a re-entry ban on rejected people:“The re-entry ban would simply prevent this revolving door effect – exit, re-entry, new application again.” Bangladesh, Pakistan (and Senegal, which I thought was already on the list) would also be added. And: Germany is now also taking military action against traffickers. In the process, one boy on the run has already been “accidentally” killed in a shootout at sea. The EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council adopted a paper yesterday, 7/15/15, which includes the following (from a report): “The Council has stressed that effective border control is imperative for the management of migration flows,” say the conclusions, and the Council will “further strengthen” Frontex’s ongoing TRITON and POSEIDON operations. Frontex will also deploy Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs) “to reinforce the response capacity of the European Union at sensitive external borders in consultation with the Member States concerned… Measures will be designed to support frontline and transit countries.” And: There are just mass deportations to the so-called safe countries of origin. A statement by the Refugee Council, which also addresses in rudimentary form the falling behind what has already been fought for, on the supply and integration concept for asylum seekers and refugees of 11.8.15.

That’s why I don’t think it’s a success when political celebrities A to Z feel compelled to say something in favor of refugees. “Helping refugees” has reached an inflationary peak when even our foreign minister becomes a “refugee friend” or the entire CDU. The same people or parties have to share the responsibility for the (partly even unconstitutional) old and current tightening of the asylum law, the deaths at our borders, for the repression against the political organizing of refugees/migrants, for the eviction of O Square, for the designation of safe countries of origin, for the inhumane housing or even imprisonment of people asking for asylum, … . Instead ….!

I have the feeling that we are perfidiously involved in making Germany the world champion of welcome culture. And here we find ourselves in a dilemma, since this cannot mean, of course, that we do not travel to distant places if we assume that it is necessary or that we do not celebrate so-called welcome festivals. But it is precisely for this reason that these firefighting actions must not remain unflanked by interventions in current politics and political discourses; this is the only way to get out of said dilemma box. But somehow – and this may also be from my perspective from a distance – I am currently missing the thematization of this ambivalence and the strategically intervening political action. Looking back at the last years of refugee struggles, it actually seems like an anachronism what is being decided on the legislative level right now.

Put cynically (excuse me), it just seems like everyone breathes a sigh of relief when Nazis have been expelled or refugees welcomed at train stations. And if that is so, then we have lost to the Nazis, right-wing conservatives and liberals. To avoid any misunderstandings: I am not arguing on the spectrum of either/or (i.e., not in the sense of: we should rather do one instead of the other), nor do I want to minimize, nullify, or show any appreciation for current efforts.

The last few years – at least on the leftist large group level – connection to the refugee protests was neither found nor sought – and the latter is the drama and takes revenge at this point. Now the terrain that people have fought for is made invisible. There is no strong, powerful basis for intervention in the current legislative disasters. Nevertheless, there are people in this spectrum (i.e. beyond the organized German large groups) who continue to mobilize against and in camps – not despite but because of it. Everything deals with misadministration and finding accommodation for refugees. Today, when someone hears the term “shelter,” they no longer think of “camps” and the demand for “decentralization” and the self-determination that goes with it, but of “Nazis” who need to be evicted, or of lines of people, and there is a creeping acceptance of camps. If the ambivalence of the camp defense was still perceptible in Berlin Hellersdorf, I miss it a little in times of Nazi attacks: Where are the demands for all that was fought hard with and among each other in the last years? They are lost in the tumult.

Of course, there are also good moments in the whole scenario and what new things emerge from it; for example, when refugees are now allowed to be guest students at HU in the winter semester (perhaps a foot in the door for the demand for education for all); or when Björn (17) and Hildegard (57) from Ebersreuterunterhinterbachlingen distribute water bottles to refugees/migrants, then their very own encounters take place. In the latter, attitudes and approaches to each other, and ultimately migration policies, can change. From the left, it is far too rarely allowed that people who are not explicitly left-wing can have an emotional and intuitively quasi-left political relationship to society and politics that also has value. You don’t have to approach everything according to the Left Scene Handbook. But it can’t all go back to the help discourse either – and here I don’t just mean Hildegard and Björn, but also the German, White Left. We can’t start at minus 10 again. It cannot be ignored what has taken place in recent years through struggles in the field of migration in terms of transformations in leftist practices in Germany in relation to speech positions, self-empowerment and appropriation processes.

Perhaps the whole welcome culture spectacle also has something positive in that the left wings are now being backed up within the party and things can be brought forward that were previously impossible. Here, if necessary, a task of the more established left-wing groups could be found. At least on the textual surface, something seems to be shifting selectively in the media. A ray of hope, also precisely because it is placed in the FAZ, is this article here. But what do these initially positive (yet very amivalent and also problematic) Spiegel cover images mean? If you take the trouble and type in “Spiegel das Boot ist voll” or “Spiegel Asyl in Deutschland” or “Spiegel Türken” or “Spiegel Ausländer” in a Google image search, you will see the German tradition of hatred. So what does it mean that a media that not only pours oil on the fire against “foreigners”, but also helps to ignite it, is publishing such a series today?

There is, of course, no clear dividing line; much in the effort is neither exclusively good nor exclusively bad. If necessary, in the current situation and the current debate, a territory has been uncovered that can be positively occupied and perhaps has already been progressively occupied in individual parts. Perhaps this is the time of the margins … Only! I don’t really see how these are being used right now. Why? What will actually turn out to be good in the end in the current caesura-like scenario is probably something we have yet to find out. I just wonder why we don’t intervene in it more actively? It is necessary to recognize breaking points, to use them and to expand them. Contradictions need to be made visible. This is just bypassing many German left established groups (here I don’t mean the individuals and groups that emerged from the organizing processes of the refugee/migration struggles of the last years) and the shaping is left to the conservatives/right & friends. And so ‘we’ somehow make it worse by doing so. In these turbulent times.

In all that is different at the moment, it reminds me a lot of the 90s around Rostock/Lichtenhagen: Back then, the media was full of hate speech and politics was full of hate speech. Today, the media love ‘refugees’ and politicians pat ‘refugees’ on the head before deporting them. Then and now do not actually contrast with each other, since both manners/strategies make massive (legal) repression possible in the respective social setting in the first place. Both in the 90’s and at present, new laws are being passed that are a disaster for very many people and prevent them from surviving/ living well.