There seems to be practically nothing but criticism for the European policy on refugees fleeing the various wars and catastrophes in Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere around the world. Much of this criticism is aimed at Germany, but also a great deal at other countries who, overwhelmed and unprepared, are unable to cope with the influx in desperate families. Germany, it should be noted, is the one central European country which is doing the most for refugees, with an estimated one million taken in so far, and a further estimate of another quarter million or more to come. Added to which, Germany, as well as the European parliament, has promised financial aid to those other countries who are having problems, including Turkey.
Not, it must be noted, every country in Europe is prepared to help. A quick glance over the waters to the shores of the British Isles, and we see nothing in the news but fights, desperation, and a refusal to take anyone else. One county in the United Kingdom recently boasted that they had taken in up to forty families this year. The town where I live (note: town, not county) has taken in one hundred.
We also see massive controversy in the United States, the fear of Muslim immigrants being pushed as far as possible by presidential candidates and other factions to prevent even the smallest influx. That despite the fact that many feel the source of the more recent problems has been caused by US and UK actions in the Middle East, with their wars, carpet bombing and purely military actions against undefined targets. That the governments in the Middle east are also partially responsible for the course of events is clear, and that the problems are unlikely to be resolved by peaceful, diplomatic means, judging by the politics and actions of those involved in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan – to name but a few – should also be clear.
Screenshot Source: Spiegel / Twitter
Despite the criticism help continues to pour in from the man / woman on the street in Germany, and elsewhere. The example set by Canada should be taken to heart by other English-speaking countries, by the people as much as by the politicians. This is a time for action, and not just for words.
And action is one thing Ursula von der Leyen, the German Defense minister since 2013, knows only too well. She is a politician who doesn’t just stand behind a podium and talk things better, she puts her actions where the words are and takes a stand. It should hardly be a surprise to anyone that she is being pushed forward as the successor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, should she decide to retire at the next election. A better choice – and certainly better than anyone else from the opposition – cannot be imagined at the moment.
What exactly does it mean ‘action rather than just words’? Ursula von der Leyen has done that which so many other ordinary people in Germany have done over the last months: she has taken in a family of refugees, given them a roof over their heads, a chance. How many other politicians can say the same, either now or in the future?
Leading by example. The Germans, Canadians and others have done it, and proven that it can work. It remains for those in the USA, the UK and elsewhere to prove that their humanitarian words are not just hot air, and finally get away from the conference table and into the center of the action.
- Viktoria Michaelis.