Immigration: A Bavarian - british Shitstorm

Article published on Feb. 11, 2014
community published
Article published on Feb. 11, 2014

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

And so another wave of immigration sweeps through Europe. But this wave has not swept across Europe’s borders as many predicted- oh no- this wave of immigration has swept through people’s minds, or more specifically through the minds of politicians in London and Munich. What ever happened to the Romanian-Bulgarian shitstorm being bigged up by the far-right??

As Jan­u­ary rolled in, the only Ro­ma­ni­ans and Bul­gar­i­ans on buses and planes out of Sofia or Bucharest were off on hol­i­day or were al­ready study­ing else­where in the EU. Bus com­pa­nies com­plained of half-empty buses. The air­craft fly­ing from Ro­ma­nia and Bul­garia to Lon­don and other Eu­ro­pean cap­i­tal cities weren’t, as many had pre­dicted, full of im­mi­grants gag­ging for ben­e­fits. De­spite des­per­ate searches by jour­nal­ists at air­ports and bus sta­tions, there was hardly a Ro­man­ian or Bul­gar­ian émigré to be found. Mean­while the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate in Mu­nich reached its nadir.

It’s gen­er­ally ac­cepted that to dis­credit im­mi­gra­tion you have to take a highly sim­pli­fied ap­proach. Ad­dress­ing the issue in its full com­plex­ity pre­sents a very dif­fer­ent re­al­ity.

The Bavar­ian CSU party has led the way: “Wer betrügt, der fliegt” they say- “Who­ever cheats, flies.” In other words, im­mi­grants who abuse so­cial wel­fare in Ger­many should be de­ported. It seems that tak­ing a stand against wel­fare fraud gives you po­lit­i­cal carte-blanche to say what you like. In­dig­na­tion against ben­e­fit fraud is se­lec­tively ap­plied by politi­cians. Those politi­cians cur­rently ril­ing them­selves up against scroung­ing im­mi­grants gladly avert their eyes from tax eva­sion in the upper ech­e­lons of so­ci­ety. Im­mi­grants on mea­gre so­cial ben­e­fits bear the brunt of so­ci­ety’s sus­pi­cion. “Im Zweifel gegen Im­mi­granten” (Doubts about im­mi­grants), so the say­ing goes. Mean­while, the wind from the Bavar­ian shit­storm has al­ready veered off in an­other di­rec­tion. On­line de­bates rage as to where the pres­i­dent of FC Bay­ern Mu­nich, Uli Hoe­ness, will tod­dle off to, if shortly con­victed of tax eva­sion.

The slo­gan “Who­ever cheats, flies” in­sin­u­ates that im­mi­grants seek to ex­ploit the so­cial wel­fare sys­tem in par­tic­u­larly in­sid­i­ous ways. In this vein Elmar Brok of the CDU party has called for ben­e­fit cheat­ing im­mi­grants to be fin­ger-printed. Such an op­pres­sive ab­sur­dity would fo­ment fur­ther  sus­pi­cion to­wards im­mi­grants.

In so doing, the per­ti­nent facts about im­mi­gra­tion are ef­fec­tively side­tracked. In Ger­many, ex­pressed as a per­cent­age, peo­ple from Ro­ma­nia and Bul­garia are no more likely to claim ben­e­fits than Ger­mans. As for the much dis­cussed “poverty mi­gra­tion”, there’s noth­ing of the sort. In many cases, im­mi­grants shore up the gaps that ap­pear in the Ger­man labour mar­ket. Many jobs are cre­ated through the ideas of the new­com­ers.

Scor­ing po­lit­i­cal points at the ex­pense of im­mi­grants is not a phe­nom­e­non solely re­served to Ger­many. In the United King­dom, the Pol­ish are on av­er­age bet­ter ed­u­cated than the British and make con­sid­er­able con­tri­bu­tions to the coun­try’s eco­nomic per­for­mance. Not to men­tion the fact that the le­gion of 2.2 mil­lion Brits set­tled across the EU wouldn’t be too keen to be per­ceived as sec­ond-class cit­i­zens

Too often are cases con­flated into the theme of im­mi­gra­tion, ones which clearly bear no sim­i­lar­i­ties to one an­other. The term “Sozial­touris­mus” (So­cial wel­fare tourism) has thus gone on to win the ac­co­lade of the nas­ti­est phrase in Ger­man-speak­ing re­gions. Rightly so, see­ing as im­mi­gra­tion has noth­ing to do with tourism, a phe­nom­e­non syn­ony­mous with sub­sidi­s­a­tion. Im­mi­grants who move to other Eu­ro­pean coun­tries can usu­ally only claim ben­e­fits after three months. The de­plorable pro­pa­ganda com­ing out of Mu­nich and Lon­don doesn’t ex­actly en­tice peo­ple to im­mi­grate into hot nests of stigma. That would be shit for every­one. 

This article is part of Cafébabel's special series of articles on immigration.