Germany Not An Immigrant Country?

This is the opinion of Hamburg State Interior Minister Udo Nagel, as interview for an article which appears in the English version of Der Spiegel today. The context for the quote is the implementation of a decision taken at a conference of German state interior ministers last November which determined that Afghanistan was now sufficiently stable for the 58,000 Afghan refugees currently living in Germany to start returning home. 10 months later, that decision is finally being acted upon and as Der Spiegel reports Hamburg is taking the lead. Hamburg is home to some 15,000 Afghan refugees — the largest such population in Germany — and the city state plans to deport 5,000 of them over the next two years.

Nagel, for his part, makes no apologies for the deportations. He insists that Germany has fulfilled its duty to Afghan refugees and is proud of his nation’s asylum policy. The bottom line, he insists, is that Afghanistan is now safe. He even paid a short visit to the country before the ban on repatriation was lifted in May this year. “When a crisis has passed, and emergency assistance is no longer required, then refugees should return, because their country needs them to help the reconstruction,” he says.

Nagel also notes that the twice weekly flight to Kabul from Frankfurt was booked solid with holidaymakers throughout August. His point is clear: Afghans who have been granted permanent residency in Germany are happy to return to their homeland. The others are just trying to exchange their refugee status for immigrant status. Then, puffing on his trademark pipe, he repeats a line cited often by German conservatives: “Germany is not a country of immigration

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Looking at this in the context of the recent debate in Germany about Turkey and the EU, and in the context of Germany’s inability to avail itself of the recent wave of migration from the new EU accession countries, I cannot but feel – looking at the age pyramid of the German population – that a mistake of historic proportions is being made right before our eyes.