Refugee crisis: Voices from the streets of Germany

Al Jazeera gauges public opinion in the multicultural city of Frankfurt after the mass entry of refugees.

arrival of refugees
Supplies are set up next to a welcome message in readiness for the arrival of refugees in Frankfurt [Frank Rumpenhorst/EPA]

Frankfurt, Germany – An unprecedented number of refugees have been welcomed into Germany in recent months with as many as one million expected to arrive by the end of the year.

Despite being hailed globally for its “willkommenskultur” – or culture of welcoming people – there have been media reports of attacks on asylum centres and demonstrations calling for new arrivals to “go home”. 

With 50,000 people crossing the border in just one week, some analysts say Germany is starting to feel the pressure, despite a public outpouring of support for refugees.

Al Jazeera went to the streets of the multicultural German city of Frankfurt to find out what people are saying about the refugee crisis – and if they think their government has done the right thing. 

Florian Gerigk, charity worker
Florian Gerigk [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]
Florian Gerigk [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]

Florian Gerigk works for a charity on the streets of Frankfurt. He says huge support networks have been created across the country, and people have been overwhelmingly supportive.

“I’ve also met people from Syria and they are lovely people looking for employment. There is a misconception that they just want to sponge off the state, but that’s not true.

A lot of them are well-trained and have excellent qualifications, and they will do jobs the Germans won’t do.

Our population is declining so we need more people in our workforce. I still think the government is acting too slowly. People are not being housed in long-term accommodation quickly enough.”

Mehdi Hasan from Bangladesh, business administration student
Mehdi Hasan [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]
Mehdi Hasan [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]

Mehdi Hasan arrived from Bangladesh three years ago to study business administration. He doesn’t know how long he’ll stay in Germany but says there are plenty of jobs in his field.

“I came here in 2012 and I didn’t know anyone. I had no apartment, no German, nothing. I really wanted to live in Germany because I had heard good things. I want to complete my bachelor’s degree and then see what happens.

I was at the train station last weekend and thought the reception the asylum seekers got was heart-warming. Germany is the land of opportunity.”

Rosalin Watson, newcomer from Nigeria
Rosalin Watson [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]
Rosalin Watson [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]

Rosalin Watson has been living in Germany for six months.

“I am originally from Nigeria, but I left because Boko Haram are too powerful there now. I didn’t feel safe any more. It’s very sad.

“I came here with my Mexican boyfriend who has been living in Germany for the past 13 years. I found a job quite easily – in the airport behind me.

“It’s great and I love how Germans are friendly to foreigners and very helpful. It’s a good country to live in so I don’t blame all the people who want to come here. They are doing the same thing I did.”

Mizanur Mietoo, student consultant
Mizanur Mietoo [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]
Mizanur Mietoo [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]

Mizanur Mietoo has been in Germany for 24 years.

“I know what it’s like to come here from a foreign country and start a new life. I had a long journey too. I was lucky enough to marry a German woman, but getting a visa was still really hard.

“That said, Germany is a great place. It’s great how Germany is letting so many people in. I work as a consultant with foreign students from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh so I want to play my part too and help the people who are coming into the country as best I can.

“It’s easy to work here. Everything is okay.” 

Franz Burgers from the Netherlands
Franz Burgers [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]
Franz Burgers [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]

Franz Burgers is a Dutch native who has spent considerable time in Germany.

“People just have to do what the government wants. It’s not like we have a choice. I think the Germans are welcoming because they still feel guilty about World War II, even though it was a long ago.

“The German government has been a lot more accommodating than the Dutch government.

“I don’t understand why countries in the Gulf states like Dubai and Saudi Arabia didn’t take people in… The Germans can only do so much. Everyone wants to come to Germany, and there will be problems down the line.”

Anja Schildknecht, media professional
Anja Schildknecht [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]
Anja Schildknecht [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]

Anja Schildknecht works for a German TV station and lives in Munich. She says despite the media coverage, the city is not overrun with people.

“There have been lots of people arriving on trains to much applause and good will, but I worry that the novelty will wear off. 

“To those who are worried about refugees taking their jobs I can only say this – if you are afraid that someone who doesn’t know the language, the customs, in most cases doesn’t have any money and doesn’t know their way round will steal your job, then you probably weren’t doing a good job in the first place.”

Andreas Stegemen, Frankfurt native
Andreas Stegemen [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]
Andreas Stegemen [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]

Andreas Stegemen lives and works in Frankfurt. He says Germany is well-equipped to deal with the influx of refugees.

“We live in a comfort zone. We have jobs and a high quality of life. Of course people want to come here and they are more than welcome.

“The people who are fleeing war zones are on the road for days or weeks.

“There are people in Germany who don’t want to accommodate refugees, but they are very much in the minority.” 

Martin Sykora from Southern Germany
Martin Sykora [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]
Martin Sykora [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]

Martin Sykora is from Baden Württemberg in southern Germany, but lives in Frankfurt.

“Besides a small minority of disgusting people setting asylum centres alight, no one is panicking. The refugees need our help, they need food and drink and psychological support.

“If we want to call ourselves human beings, then we have to help these people.

“I think the smaller towns may have more difficulty adapting to their new neighbours because they have different customs, but we have to adapt. Ultimately they just want the same thing we do – happiness.”

Pilar Carvajal from Galicia, Spain
Pilar Carvajal [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]
Pilar Carvajal [Barbara McCarthy/Al Jazeera]

Pilar Carvajal is originally from Spain, but is currently living in Frankfurt.

“This is such a colourful city, it’s wonderful. The media is making such a big deal about the refugee crisis now, but it’s been going on for months.

“We have our own issues here. There is a big homelessness crisis and they are saying – why not provide accommodation for us?

“Of course it’s sad that people have to live on the streets, but they would live on the street regardless. I don’t know how people will feel once there are a million extra people in Germany, but now there are very few problems.”

Source: Al Jazeera