For hundreds of thousands fleeing religious persecution and violence in Syria, adapting to a new life in Europe is not an easy task.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel may have asserted that her country “can manage” Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since WWII, but it seems that even her assimilation policies are not working as well as she had hoped.
Since the summer of 2015, more than 1 million people from war-torn Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa nations have arrived in the European country. Most German towns have accommodated these refugees and migrants in churches, sport halls, abandoned aircraft hangars and camp settlements — except for Schwäbisch Gmünd, a city of 60,000 that has settled most of its refugee population in private households.
The Sawabian town had even planned to open an architect-designed asylum hostel to house at least 120 people in early months of 2016. However, a recent arson attack has rendered the structure inhabitable, setting back the plans to accommodate the asylum-seekers.
The local police are still looking for the attackers, but so far, they remain at large.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in the attack since the building was yet empty, but the attack has certainly destroyed all notions that government’s assimilation policies are yielding any positive results.
“It was incomprehensible,” said Klaus Pavel, a leading regional member of ruling conservatives. “We have invested so much in integrating refugees and the policy is widely accepted.”
As The Independent reports, there have been more than 220 such suspected far-right attacks in 2015.
“Integration does not work if refugees live five to a room in a hostel, they have to get into private homes,” said Mayor of Schwäbisch Gmünd Richard Arnold, adding that his town was a “beacon of openness” which remained “opposed to stupidity and darkness.”
The truth is, it’s not only religious and cultural differences that make assimilation harder for Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees, language barriers and strict asylum rules also play a major role.
“There are plenty of people around here who have problems with refugees,” said a German couple on condition of anonymity. “We’ve got nothing against them personally but we don’t much like the idea of a new hostel parked right in front of our noses. They’ll be sending their kids to the local school next.”
Refugees and migrants risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean in search of a safe home for their families and kids. And considering the violence and hostility that many are currently facing, their trials and tribulations did not end when they reached the European shores. If anything, they still have a long way to go before they will be able to properly acclimate themselves into the society that has given them refuge.