The onset of the refugee crisis
By Richard S. Gubbe
The new invasion in Europe has begun, this one not as welcome as Normandy.
During the onset of the Syrian refugee crisis, Europeans watched intently while Americans sat by and said, “Not my problem.” Despite weak economies in many European Union countries, all have opened their borders and their hearts to welcome refugees. Compassion outweighed potential problems in EU countries, most notably Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel may have won Time magazine’s Person of the Year, but she is not winning any popularity contests these days in her land. Satisfaction with Merkel has declined from a stellar 75 percent in April to a still-respectable 49 percent in November, according to polling by the Infratest dimap agency for ARD television. Support for Merkel’s conservative bloc has dipped from 41 percent to 37 percent.
Europeans have worked hard to create a safe atmosphere with open borders. The only obstacle that separates The Netherlands with Belgium is a small freeway sign found in every Illinois governmental building: the “No Guns” sign with a line through it. There is no border stop on the largest road separating the two countries and many others in Europe. But open borders may disappear soon.
The farther north you go in Europe the less refugees are greeted with open arms. In the Netherlands, the Dutch are concerned their crime-free paradise will change. One bomb in one of the world’s busiest seaports, and terror will replace tranquility.
Most in Belgium were shocked the Paris attacks were spawned there in an isolated area near Brussels. There are invisible lines of racial separation in northern Europe and after staying for 10 days recently in Amsterdam, segregation in the area was a two-way street. Those from Arab countries stay amongst themselves in neighborhoods, in restaurants, in tour groups and stores. There is a feeling of anxiety when large groups of Arabs descend upon a social gathering establishment. They don’t intermingle with the staff or any of the clientele. Not even so much as a nod to say, ‘hey, how are ya.’ In a land where tourism thrives and friendly defines the residents, there is an obvious cultural divide.
How are 1,000,000 Syrians going to impact the landscape greatly. A small group of saved Jews and gypsies in World War II grew into a group of 10,000 over 40 years that the movie “Defiance” depicted.
The Dutch do not appear to be so willing to do the same. They didn’t welcome Jewish families back after the war and confiscated their homes and property. Now choices must be made between saving their own poor population or aiding strangers from a strange land.
In Amsterdam, where “live and let live” rules the day, segregation is evident. Arab restaurants draw Arab clientele. In coffee houses, on bus trips and neighborhoods are segregated far more than here. This is a place where the biggest concern over crime is keeping pickpockets in check. The Dutch say they can’t take care of their own senior citizens much less more refugees than the United States may take, despite the huge size difference.
The same of Belgium and Norway and other Scandinavian lands. Europeans think the French were too open, too willing to accept and that attitude led to terror. The Showtime series “Homeland” deals with the real dangers facing Berlin from terror groups and now the show appears realistic. Europeans’ major concern is that terror cells already are forming. The Germans have far more resources to deal with terror than their less-policed neighbors to the north.
There never will be acceptance of Arabs and their religious beliefs in Europe, only the fear of terror in lands where tranquility has emerged since the end of the last great war.
The geographic and social segregation the preceded the Paris attacks will only increase. The future could see a spate of retaliation against Arab neighborhoods. But don’t equate that to the elimination of Jews in World War II; Jews didn’t bomb restaurants, concert halls, sporting events and workplaces.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, a new fear has arisen. Europe has worked hard at being free. But as a Dutch friend says, this is a new invasion of Europe.
For this one, Europeans aren’t waving flags in celebration.