Dhe right fringe was the first to recognize that the mood could change. It all started at the beginning of September with a statement by René Springer, the social policy spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group in the Bundestag: “Most Ukrainians have never paid into the social system, but are treated on an equal footing with all those who have worked their entire lives, that built land and raised children.”
Before that, for quite a while, little or nothing had been heard from the party on what was once its favorite topic, refugee policy. The AfD seems to have recognized that in times when Russian tanks are rolling into Ukraine, their usual anti-refugee rhetoric is no match for them. People across the country opened up their guest rooms, and many drove to the border to pick up families. The new arrivals from the east were not suitable as enemies, especially since – unlike in 2015 – they were primarily women and children. In April, AfD politician Gottfried Curio even called for more capacity to be created for war refugees by deporting other foreigners who are required to leave the country.
More than half a year has passed since the first refugees from Ukraine arrived at the republic’s train platforms. Inflation and gas shortages are eroding the solidarity that is so often invoked. The far right and left have long questioned how firmly Germany should stand on Ukraine’s side.
All this is happening at a time when solidarity is already facing a new endurance test, and not just because of the approaching winter. We hear from all over the country that the capacity in the cities and communities is reaching its limits. Many municipalities have long had real problems with housing the new arrivals. Some local politicians have now identified so-called “pull effects”, which attract refugees, as the reason for this. What is meant is that Ukrainian war refugees, unlike Syrians and Afghans, for example, have direct access to basic security and do not first have to go through an asylum procedure.
“People are fleeing the war, they are not coming for economic reasons.”
The president of the Baden-Württemberg district council, the Tübingen district administrator Joachim Walter, criticized last week that refugees were being lured “into the social hammock”. The federal government must now “urgently change course and stop pull effects”. Walter said he himself spoke to Ukrainians who initially found shelter in Poland but then moved on to Germany. Here they would get more money without having to work for it. This endangers an appropriate distribution of refugees between the EU member states. He also hears similar stories from other district administrators throughout Germany, Walter explained to the FAS
Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) does not agree with the argument. She “doesn’t see such a development at all,” she said in an interview with the FAS. “Then the arrival numbers would have to go up, and they don’t. Poland opened its social system to refugees much earlier, as did Switzerland, where social benefits are very high. But there was no pull effect there. People are fleeing the war, they are not coming for economic reasons. They leave adult sons drafted. These are terrible fates.”