Refugees are now 2% of the population
Even though less than 30% of Germany’s population supports immigration, the government is unapologetic in its very welcoming policies.
Why? Germany needs immigrants.
1. Europe’s last major humanitarian and refugee crisis was caused by Hitler’s policies in the 1930s and 40s. No one has forgotten that. By welcoming refugees during this crisis, Germany is hoping to change the narrative, and change perceptions. “Many Germans think that their country should act particularly humanitarian given its war-time history”.
2. Germany has the lowest birth rate in Europe. By 2030, less than half of the population of the country will be of working age. Without immigration, they will be unable to support baby-boomers in their retirement at the standard they have promised to them.
While the government is handling the crisis like a train schedule (using a complex formula to determine how many refugees are welcome in each town, and specifically explaining all the rules for receiving asylum), the average German isn’t sure how to welcome the refugees. The exact reasons why they need immigrants are the reasons why it’s so difficult to authentically welcome them: with a history of disliking foreigners, and a future so dependent on them, what is the balance and how do they integrate?
Sanctuary – the church is a safe place
Amidst all the political turmoil, there are very real stories of very real people who need help faster than the government can provide it.
We met with a man named Achile from Central African Republic. We didn’t get his picture, and I’m not using his real name, because his case is sensitive.
Achile left his home, wife, and two children three years ago. He walked to the northern coast of Africa, took a boat to Europe, and then began walking. He was arrested in Bulgaria and sent to a detention facility known for its human rights abuses, where he was routinely tortured, starved, etc. Amnesty international took on his case and asked a Lutheran church in the town of Mainz, Germany to host him while they managed the legal paperwork.
Pastor Jens Martin (who hosted us in Mainz) agreed.
The church set up an apartment in their basement, and in exchange for maintenance and janitorial work, allowed Achile to live there for 8 months, and worked with his lawyers to help his case. He was allowed to move his asylum case from Bulgaria to Germany, and now has moved out of the church. He still lives and works in Mainz while he is waiting for Germany to respond to his request for asylum, which might take another year.
His biggest dream is for his family to live and worship together.
Unfortunately, there is only a 2% chance that his request for asylum will be approved by Germany. They rarely approve African refugees. Syrians are given priority, as they are coming from a ‘war zone’. Even though CAR has been in a civil war since 2012, that is not internationally recognized as a humanitarian crisis (yet).
We haven’t heard as much about Africa as we have about the middle east, but Nigera, Congo, Sudan, and CAR are all involved in serious civil wars, each creating millions of refugees. Next summer I’ll be in Africa to learn more. In the meantime, I am hoping that the US and Europe can do more to welcome humanitarian refugees from these countries.
Please join me in praying for Achile, and for the church in Mainz which so graciously hosted him.