Paris Attacks Provoke Fresh Migrant Fears in Europe

Published: 15th November 2015 03:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th November 2015 03:42 AM   |  A+A-


BERLIN: The news that one of the assailants in the Paris attacks may have crossed into Europe with refugees fleeing Syria is raising the fierce debate over Europe's migration policy to a new pitch.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, already under pressure from political foes and allies, seemed yesterday to hold onto her stance of placing no limits on the number of people Germany is willing to give refuge to a stance that is increasingly being called into question.

In a somber statement hours after the attacks, she urged her countrymen to uphold European values of humanity and compassion in the face of terror.

"We believe," she said, "in the right of every person to seek happiness and to enjoy it, in the respect for others and in tolerance."

But her optimism, reflected in Merkel's signature phrase that "we will manage it," is being met with growing skepticism in Germany and abroad, and not just by those on the far right who have long opposed immigration.

Even before Friday's attacks in Paris, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a close Merkel ally, likened the more than 750,000 migrants who have come to Germany this year to an avalanche. His words reflect fears not just about how long the country of 80 million can keep up its open-door policy, but also about a possible violent backlash.

The country has already seen surge in attacks against migrants and refugee shelters. So far this year authorities have recorded 689 such incidents more than three times the number for all of 2014.

The violence has been accompanied by a sharp shift in tone. Just a few months ago, newspapers were full of reports  about refugees being warmly received at German train stations, according to Joachim Trebbe, a communications researcher at Berlin's Free University. Now reports about migrants are automatically linked to the word "crisis" as authorities struggle to cope with tens of thousands of arrivals each month.

In the meanwhile, politicians, journalists and refugee activists in Germany have been deluged with hate mail. Merkel and members of her government have been branded "race traitors," and death threats in the form of gallows bearing her name were paraded during anti-immigrant demonstrations.

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