Germany: Migrants In, Germans Out

  • Hamburg city officials say that owners of vacant real estate have refused to make their property available to the city on a voluntary basis, and thus the city should be given the right to take it by force.
  • “The proposed confiscation of private land and buildings is a massive attack on the property rights of the citizens of Hamburg. It amounts to an expropriation by the state [and a] “law of intimidation.” — André Trepoll, Christian Democratic Union.
  • “If a property is confiscated… a lawsuit to determine the legality of the confiscation can only be resolved after the fact. But the accommodation would succeed in any event.” — Tübingen Mayor Boris Palmer.
  • Officials in North Rhine-Westphalia seized a private resort in the town of Olpe to provide housing for up to 400 migrants
  • “I find it impossible to understand how the city can treat me like this. I have struggled through life with grief and sorrow and now I get an eviction notice. It is a like a kick in the stomach.” — Bettina Halbey, 51-year-old nurse, after being notified that she must vacate her apartment so that migrants can move in.
  • The landlord is being paid 552 euros ($617) for each migrant he takes in. By cramming as many migrants into his property as possible, he stands to receive payments of more than 2 million euros a year from government.
  • “Considering that migrants cannot afford to rent new properties… moves must be initiated in which higher income households purchase or build more expensive accommodations for themselves in order to free up the less expensive housing for migrants.” — The Berlin Institute for Urban Development, the Housing Industry and Loan Associations
  • “I saw an unbelievable situation: the elderly volunteer lifted the table halfway, looked at the migrant and moved his head asking the migrant to lend a hand. The migrant paused for a moment and then just walked away.” — Firsthand account, refugee shelter.

German authorities are applying heavy-handed tactics to find housing for the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees pouring into the country from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

With existing shelters filled to capacity, federal, state and local authorities are now using legally and morally dubious measures — including the expropriation of private property and the eviction of German citizens from their homes — to make room for the newcomers.

German taxpayers are also being obliged to make colossal economic sacrifices to accommodate the influx of migrants, many of whom have no prospect of ever finding a job in the country. Sustaining the 800,000 migrants and refugees who are expected to arrive in Germany in 2015 will cost taxpayers at least at least 11 billion euros ($12 billion) a year for years to come.

As the migration crisis intensifies, and Germans are waking up to the sheer scale of the economic, financial and social costs they will expected to bear in the years ahead, anger is brewing.

In Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany, municipal officials on September 23 introduced an audacious bill in the local parliament (Hamburgische Bürgerschaft) that would allow the city to seize vacant commercial real estate (office buildings and land) and use it to house migrants.

City officials argue the measure is necessary because more than 400 new migrants are arriving in Hamburg each day and all the existing refugee shelters are full. They say that owners of vacant real estate have refused to make their property available to the city on a voluntary basis, and thus the city should be given the right to take it by force.

The measure, which will be voted upon in the Hamburg parliament within the next two weeks, is being applauded by those on the left of the political spectrum. “We are doing everything we can to ensure that the refugees are not homeless during the coming winter,” Senator Till Steffen of the Green Party said. “For this reason, we need to use vacant commercial properties.”

In Tübingen, a town in Baden-Württemberg, Mayor Boris Palmer (also of the Green Party), is making offers to rent or buy vacant properties to house migrants. But he is also threatening to confiscate the property of landlords who dare to reject his offer. In an interview with the newspaper Die Welt, Palmer said:

“In the written offers, I advise that the Police Law (Polizeigesetz) gives us the possibility, in cases of emergency, to confiscate homes for several months. The law provides for seizure in emergencies. I want to avoid this, but if there is no other way, I will make use of this law.”

When asked if he was afraid of lawsuits, Palmer said:

“No. The Police Law has clear rules. When the town is threatened with homelessness, empty homes may be confiscated. This emergency can happen when accommodations are overcrowded and we continue to receive 50 new migrants in Tübingen. If a property is confiscated, we would order immediate enforcement. That is to say, a lawsuit to determine the legality of the confiscation can only be resolved after the fact. But the accommodation would succeed in any event.”

In February 2015, officials in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) seized a private resort in the town of Olpe to provide housing for up to 400 migrants. The initial plan was for the town to purchase the resort from its Bavarian owners and rent it to NRW, but NRW officials decided to confiscate the property instead. According to NRW Interior Minister Ralf Jäger, properties may be seized whenever there is a “threat to public order and safety,” and the threat of mass homelessness among migrants fits the bill.

The Center for Economic Studies, a think tank based in Munich, has published a report warning that most of the migrants arriving in Germany lack the most basic qualifications to find work in the country. This implies that they will become long-term wards of the state and thus a drag on the German economy. The report advises lowering the minimum wage as a way to prevent a surge in the unemployment rate:

“To ensure that the refugee crisis does not lead to an ongoing financial overload for the German taxpayer, refugees must find paid employment as soon as possible, so that they can contribute to their own livelihoods. It is feared that many of them will not be able to find employment at the minimum wage of 8.50 euros because their productivity simply is too low. Therefore, the minimum wage should be lowered, so that the unemployment rate does not go up.”

Meanwhile, politicians are demanding that German citizens do more to ensure that the migrants feel at home. But a first-hand account of the goings-on in a refugee shelter articulates the frustration felt by many Germans that this is a one-way street:

“For about a week now, 500 migrants and refugees are being housed in the gym in our neighborhood. So I went over there because I wanted to see the conditions there with my own eyes. There were about ten vehicles belonging to the Red Cross and volunteers.

“Older men over 60 were unloading tables and benches from the trucks, cleaning them with a bucket of water and cloth, and then carrying them into the hall….

“What made me really angry was to see the incredible lethargy of the young men. All of them in their 20s and 30s, all sitting there, smoking and looking at their cell phones, while the 60-year-old volunteers where laboring away….

“While I was watching how the Red Cross volunteers were working and no one was helping them, I saw an unbelievable situation: an elderly gentleman was trying to carry a table into the hall when a refugee returned from the city center with a shopping bag. The elderly volunteer lifted the table halfway, looked at the migrant and moved his head asking the migrant to lend a hand. The migrant paused for a moment and then just walked away. I could hardly believe what I saw.”

Full article: Germany: Migrants In, Germans Out (Gatestone Institute)

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