Tag Archive for Germany

Can you imagine a supermarket without foreign products?

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In an article published by the BBC, an initiative undertaken by a supermarket located in Hamburg, Germany, was highlighted as an innovative action against xenophobia.

The Edeka Supermarket took away all foreign products from their shelves such as Spanish tomatoes and Greek cheeses replacing them by signs including the following messages:

“Our selection knows border today”

“This is how empty a shelf is without foreigners”

“This shelf is pretty boring without diversity”

Pictures of the empty shelves became viral worldwide a few weeks ahead of the recent federal elections in Germany held in September in which migration became an important issue within the political debate.

More than 1 million refugees have entered Germany since 2015, a social challenge that made German politicians raised integration and national identity as main topics of discussion. As highlighted in certain media, Chancellor Merkel’s “refugees welcome” policy in 2015 “has fueled the rise of extremist views that wants to close the country’s borders and curb the right to asylum”.

Germany, like many other countries in Europe, faces major global challenges including climate change, a demographic challenge and economic pressures from globalization and migration. It also faces specific defiance related to democracy: the rise of populism as exemplified by the rise of the AfD.

However, according the Migration Policy Index (MIPEX), which measures policies of countries to integrate migrants in Europe, Germany ranks among the top ten countries in Europe on integration policy. The index stated that “Germany’s integration policies have benefited its economy by contributing to rising employment rates and positive public attitudes towards immigrants”. In addition to this, the creation of a Federal Commissioner at the Chancellery to coordinate integration plans among ministries and federal states, has been highlighted as a good practice.

The Edeka Supermarket’s campaign promotes a Shared Societies perspective and was revealed at the right time, a few weeks ahead of the German election.  It shows the imaginative way that the issues related to migration and refugees can be highlighted and shoppers provoked to stop and think.

Refugees attitudes in Europe


On August 6th, The Guardian published an article: “German TV presenter sparks debate and hatred with her support for refugees”. The article’s author wrote how the German TV presenter Anja Reschke denounced that, racist comments have recently become socially acceptable and it’s common to make them under real names. Her declarations generated debates about emerging racism in Germany.

Until recently, such commentators were hidden behind pseudonyms, but now these things are being aired under real names, (…) in reaction to phrases like “filthy vermin should drown in the sea”, you get excited consensus and a lot of “likes” on social media.

However, the article’s author mentioned that the aggressive response towards foreigners is seen as a minority reacting to the changing face of Germany where one fifth of the population is now of a migrant background, according to statistics out this week.

Since then the Germany Government has accepted many more refugees and advocated within the European Union for a better system for receiving refugees. The situation is changing day by day.

The mainstream debate and attitudes have been overwhelmingly positive, with many communities and individual families welcoming refugees, most of whom have fled conflict in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In most towns, inhabitants received new arrivals, offering help, collecting food and clothing, offering language lessons for free, and even inviting them to live with them. Some neighbors help them with the shopping and with the bureaucratic issues, others give them presents and even install a satellite dish for them so they could watch Syrian TV.

Yahian, a Syrian refugee with his family in a village in Germany told their experience arriving in Germany to The Guardian:

There were flowers, candles, milk and coffee waiting for us. They tried to make it as comfortable as possible. It was cold, wet and dark. My wife was crying, she was so nervous, but we’ll never forget the warmth of their welcome.

The Pastor of his village, also help him to negotiate with the butcher to provide halal meat.

The Guardian, also published an article on the same topic that emphasizes the desire of Germans citizens to improve the situation of refugees, and described a project created by a couple that felt uncomfortable with the way Germany were treating them, “Refugee Welcome” (http://www.refugees-welcome.net/). This initiative consists in sharing home with refugees; “Accommodating a refugee does not have to mean losing out on the rent of a room, Refugees Welcome representative said. In a third of the cases, costs are covered either by the job centre or social welfare payments, and a quarter of the rents are paid for via micro-donations to the site”. 26 people have been placed in private’s houses so far, and more than 780 Germans have signed up to the website.

Acts like the ones described above demonstrates that most of the Germans do their best to make the refugees feel like home. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Germany is a country used to integrate both immigrants and refugees, having “one of Europe’s most hospitable asylum systems”.


Germany and Immigration


Whilst Norway appointed a young Muslim woman to the post of Culture Minister, Germany’s attitude towards immigration is becoming more positive too.

This change in attitude is rooted in the difference in perception of immigration from two different generations. The older generation’s view is informed by the past, whereas the young generation is more receptive to the demographic changes that have been taking place for decades.

Although Germany is not traditionally a country of immigration, it has experienced immigration influxes since the 1950’s, mainly from Turkey, as a response to the distractions of the WWII and labour shortages.

The then government introduced a guest worker policy, assuming that the immigrant workers would come on temporary basis and once the jobs they were contracted for were completed they would return to their home countries and a new wave of workers would arrive based on demand. However, the policy makers did not envisage that the workers would settle down, stay permanently and would spin off a different type of immigration determined by family reunification.

For decades to come, Germany’s response to immigration was influenced by the institutional idea that Germany is a non-immigration country. The evidence of this was Germany’s reluctance to legalize the status of the temporary yet permanent workers which resulted in the creation of parallel societies, reinforcing the public’s growing dissatisfaction with the increase in Turkish immigrants.

This attitude started to change after German reunification, when members of German minority groups living abroad sought repatriation. Many highly skilled and qualified migrant workers entered Germany and the perception of migrants started to change.

In the words of Klaus Bade, who led the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration; “Since increasing numbers of highly-qualified people are coming to Germany, the image of the educated immigrant is beginning to overshadow the picture of the unskilled labourer”.

Some of the old sentiment and distorted perception still persist and are reflected through the public resentment toward the Roma and Muslims. Anti-Islamic propaganda, media’s input and immigration terminology focussing too much on foreignness, add to the problem.

However, Elif Senel, German journalist of a Turkish heritage, signals a shift in how Germans view people with non-German roots in German television. She points out that “In TV series and soap operas, there’s often an Iranian doctor, say, or a Turkish real estate broker – without these people’s background coming up as an issue at all.”  She also says that attitudes are changing because immigrants have changed their perception of themselves, from ‘simply grateful to be allowed to live here at all’ to being confident to contribute and help shape the society.

She says that “Those who present themselves in a confident way will often earn more respect”.


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