Asylum seekers are increasingly using tactics such as hunger strikes, lawsuits and threats of violence in efforts to force German authorities to comply with an ever-growing list of demands.
Many migrants, unhappy with living conditions in German refugee shelters, are demanding that they immediately be given their own homes or apartments. Others are angry that German bureaucrats are taking too long to process their asylum applications. Still others are upset over delays in obtaining social welfare payments.
Although most asylum seekers in Germany have a roof over their head, and receive three hot meals a day, as well as free clothing and healthcare, many are demanding: more money, more comfortable beds, more hot water, more ethnic food, more recreational facilities, more privacy — and, of course, their own homes.
Germany will receive as many as 1.5 million asylum seekers in 2015, including 920,000 in the last quarter of 2015 alone, according to government estimates. This figure is nearly double the previous estimate, from August, which was 800,000 for all of 2015. By comparison, Germany received 202,000 asylum seekers in all of 2014.
With refugee shelters across the country already filled to capacity, and more than 10,000 new migrants entering Germany every day, Germany is straining to care for all the newcomers, many of whom are proving to be ungrateful and impatient guests.
In Berlin, 20 asylum seekers sued the State Agency for Health and Social Welfare (Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales, Lageso) in an effort to force local authorities to speed up their welfare payments.
Berlin expects to receive 50,000 asylum seekers in 2015. German taxpayers will spend 600 million euros ($680 million) this year to pay for their upkeep.
Also in Berlin, more than 40 migrants, mostly from Pakistan, seized control over the observation deck of the city's television tower and demanded stays of deportation, jobs, and exemptions from mandatory residence (Residenzpflicht), a legal requirement that asylum seekers reside within certain boundaries defined by local immigration authorities. More than 100 police were deployed to the tower to remove the protesters. After a brief questioning, they were set free. Police said no crime had been committed because the migrants had purchased tickets to the observation deck, some 200 meters (650 feet) above the Berlin.
In the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, more than 400 migrants, mostly from Africa, occupied an abandoned school because they no longer wanted to live in tents in a nearby square. When 900 police arrived to clear the building, some migrants poured gasoline inside the structure and threatened to set themselves on fire, while others threatened to jump off the roof of the building. "We are currently negotiating with local authorities about how to proceed," a Sudanese migrant named Mohammed said. "We will not leave until our demands [amending German asylum laws so they can remain in the country] are met."
In Dortmund, 125 migrants complained about the "catastrophic conditions" at the Brügmann sports facility, which now serves as a refugee shelter. The list of complaints included: bad food, uncomfortable beds and not enough showers.
Just hours after arriving in Fuldatal, 40 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria complained about conditions at a refugee shelter there and demanded that they be given their own homes. The regional refugee coordinator, Hans-Joachim Ulrich, said that migrants are coming to Germany with unrealistic expectations. "Human traffickers and the media in their home countries are making promises that do not correspond with reality," he said.
In Hamburg, more than 70 asylum seekers went on a hunger strike in an effort to pressure local authorities to provide them with better housing. "We are on a hunger strike," said Syrian refugee Awad Arbaakeat. "The city lied to us. We were shocked when we arrived here." The migrants said they were angry they were being asked to sleep in a huge warehouse rather than in private apartments. Hamburg officials say there are no more vacant apartments in the city, the second-largest in Germany.
Also in Hamburg, more than 100 migrants gathered in front of the city hall to protest the lack of heating in their tent shelters. City officials said they were caught off guard by the early frost and that all tents would have heating before the winter sets in. According to Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholtz, some 3,600 migrants would be spending the coming winter in tents due to the lack of alternative housing in the city.
According to Hamburg officials, 35,021 migrants arrived in the city during the first nine months of 2015. During this same period, Hamburg police were dispatched to the city's refugee shelters more than 1,000 times, including 81 times to break up mass brawls, 93 times to investigate physical and sexual assaults, and 28 times to prevent migrants from committing suicide.
Meanwhile, a confidential document that was leaked to the German newspaper Bild reveals that the Hamburg transit authority (Hamburger Verkehrsverbund, HVV) has ordered ticket inspectors to "look the other way" whenever they encounter migrants who are using public transportation without a ticket. The move ostensibly aims to protect the HVV against "bad press."
According to the leaked document, ticket inspectors should be lenient with asylum seekers because many migrants are "the victims of professional counterfeit ticket scammers" and many others have "barely comprehensible knowledge" of the HVV's tariff structure.
The CDU's transportation expert, Dennis Thering, said the HVV's policy cannot be left unchallenged. "This 'look-the-other-way' policy must be withdrawn. In Hamburg there is the opportunity to purchase discounted HVV tickets, explicitly also for persons who receive benefits under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act." Every newly arrived refugee receives 149 euros in pocket money every month. This includes 25.15 euros that have been earmarked for the purchase of transport tickets.
In Halle, four security guards were injured when they tried to stop a mob of asylum seekers from Africa and Syria from entering the city's social welfare office before opening hours. The migrants, who were there to pick up their welfare payments, became angry when it appeared to them as though some migrants cut in front of the line. It later turned out that some migrants were there for other business, and thus were not required to stand in line.
In Munich, 30 migrants went on a hunger strike to protest shared accommodations in refugee shelters. Two of the men were rushed to the hospital after losing consciousness. "A constitutional state cannot allow itself to be blackmailed," Bavarian politician Marcel Huber said. "We have zero tolerance for this action."
In Nürnberg, six migrants from Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Iran went on a hunger strike to protest the rejection of their asylum applications. The men, who are living in a tent in downtown Nürnberg for several months, demanded to speak to local authorities. The asylum applications were rejected six years ago, but the men are still living in Germany.
In Osnabrück, an asylum seeker from Somalia successfully sued the German Agency for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, BAMF) for taking too long to process his application. A judge ordered the BAMF to make a decision on his application within three months or provide him with financial compensation.
The man said he had been waiting for 16 months to get an answer from the BAMF. In its defense, the BAMF said it currently has a backlog of 250,000 unprocessed applications, and this number is expected to skyrocket as more asylum seekers arrive in Germany.
A spokesperson for the court said the ruling set a precedent, and that many more asylum seekers likely would file lawsuits against the BAMF in the near future.
Groups of migrants across Germany have been launching hunger strikes, demanding more money, more comfortable beds, more hot water, more ethnic food, more recreational facilities, and their own homes. In Berlin (right), 900 police were needed to remove more than 400 migrants who had occupied an abandoned school.
In Walldorf, a town in the state of Baden-Württemberg, a group of migrants demanded that local authorities immediately provide them with private apartments because they were tired of living in a refugee shelter with 200 other asylum seekers. The leader of the group, a 46-year-old refugee from Syria, said he expected more from Germany. It was high time for Germans to begin to "treat us like human beings," he said.
Following up on the complaints, state and local authorities inspected the shelter and found that conditions there were "absolutely acceptable," with cubicles for privacy and plenty of food and clothing.
In Wetzlar, a city in the state of Hesse, migrants threatened to go on a hunger strike in an effort to force local authorities to move them into permanent housing. Local authorities said they delays were due to a quarantine after several migrants were found to be infected with Hepatitis A.
In Zweibrücken, 50 asylum seekers from Syria went on a hunger strike to protest the slow pace of the application approval process. "We can accept the living conditions in the refugee camp, but we need hope," one of the men said. Local officials said the process has collapsed because of the large number of applicants.
Asylum seekers have also gone on hunger strikes in Birkenfeld, Böhlen, Gelsenkirchen, Hannover, Walheim, and Wittenberg.
Meanwhile, teachers at Gemeinschaftsschule St. Jürgen, a grade school in the northern German city of Lübeck, ordered eighth graders to spend a morning at a local refugee shelter and "actively help" the migrants by making their beds, sorting their clothing and working in the kitchen.
Some parents complained that their children are also being asked to bring gifts and food for the migrants, who are already receiving handouts financed by German taxpayers. A woman wrote: "Sometimes I do not even know how I am going to put food on my own table."
Another woman wrote: "This is going too far. Students are supposed to make beds and do cleaning work at a refugee shelter. My friend's 14-year-old son is being asked to do this!!! I am not an agitator and I am tolerant, but this is going way too far. Is there now a new course in Lübeck schools called: Slavery???
The school's principal, Stefan Pabst, said the negative reaction was a "catastrophe." He said that having the children work in a refugee shelter was the best way for them to "understand social behavior." The German newsmagazine, Stern, complained that the dissenting parents belong to "rightwing circles" and are "spreading their stupid slogans."
In Bad Kreuznach, a family of asylum seekers from Syria made an appointment to view a four-room rental property but refused to see the house because the real estate agent was female. According to real estate agent Aline Kern:
"One of the men, who spoke broken German, said they were not interested in viewing the property because I am a woman, I am blonde, and because I looked the men into their eyes. This was inappropriate. My company should send a man to show the property.
"I was taken aback. You want to help and then are sent away, unwanted in your own country."
In Idar-Oberstein, a town in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, an imam at a refugee shelter refused to shake the hand of Julia Klöckner, a visiting dignitary, because she is a woman. After Klöckner, the vice-chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), shared her experience with the German newsmagazine Focus, she received more than 800 emails from women across the country describing how they, too, have been mistreated by Muslim migrants.
Klöckner is now calling for Germany to pass a new law that requires migrants and refugees to integrate into German society. She said: "We need an integration law. We are a liberal and free country. If we give up the foundations of our liberality, we will wake up in a different country."
Klöckner insists that migrants must be informed about German "rules of the game" from the first day they arrive in the country. "The people who want to stay here must, from the first day, accept and learn that in this country religions coexist peacefully and that we cannot use force to resolve conflicts," she said.
One woman described how Muslim men repeatedly cut in front of her at the supermarket checkout line. "Twice while shopping at a German supermarket I was shown that I am a second-class citizen," she wrote. In one instance, an adult Muslim male with a full shopping cart cut in front of her. In broken German he said: "I man. You woman. I go first." In another instance, a young Muslim male elbowed the woman while cutting in front of her. "When I said that I would let him go ahead of me if he asked me for permission, I was instructed by his sister that boys do not need to ask, they just demand."
A teacher at a vocational school wrote: "The most problematic students are Muslim males, who do not acknowledge the authority of female teachers and who disrupt the classes."
A mother reported that during a visit to her daughter's school, she approached a fully-veiled female refugee and asked her if she could be of help to her. "A man with a fancy suit and a three-day beard, he seemed like out of a Hugo Boss fashion magazine, said: 'My wife does not speak the language of the unclean.' When I asked him who here was unclean, he said I was. I asked him what that means. He said it was nothing against me personally, because all German women are unclean, and that his wife should not speak the language of the unclean, so that she can remain clean."
In Berlin, more than 150 migrant youths from North Africa and Eastern Europe are occupied as full-time purse-snatchers and pick-pockets. Also known as the klau-kids (thief kids), they post their gains (smart phones, laptops, designer sunglasses) on the Internet, presumably to taunt the police. A 16-year-old known as Ismat O. has been detained more than 20 times on suspicion of theft, but each time he has been released. Walid K. has been arrested more than 10 times, and also freed.
According to the director of Berlin's police union, Bodo Pfalzgraf, "it is incomprehensible that such serial offenders do not remain in pre-trial detention." Police say the youths are released because German judges are not prepared to issue arrested warrants for so-called petty crimes such as purse-snatching. Meanwhile, youths can only be deported if they have been sentenced to at least three years in prison.
In Bavaria, the Munich Chamber of Trade (Handwerkskammer München und Oberbayern) reported that 70% of migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria who have been offered apprenticeships fail to complete them. The normal dropout rate is 25%. According to the director of the chamber, Lothar Semper, many young migrants believe apprenticeships are beneath them. "We have to make a tremendous effort to convince young people that they should even begin an apprenticeship," he said. "Many have the expectation of quickly earning a lot of money in Germany."
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. His first book, Global Fire, will be out in early 2016.