What Is To Be Done? Claus Leggewie on the Refugee Crisis

What is the greatest opportunity in the current immigration and how might we harness it? Claus Leggewie in the current issue of Germany’s philosophie magazine: 27 philosophers consider the country’s situation with relation to the crisis in refugee policy.

von Claus Leggewie

Aus dem Philosophie Magazin Februar / März 2016. Foto: David Stewart
Article “What Is To Be Done? Philosophers on the Refugee Crisis” in February/March issue of “Philosophie Magazin”. Photo: David Stewart

The greatest chance offered by the mass migration would no doubt be for Europe to become honest. The migration is the consequence of decades of procrastinating and delaying on conflicts, which are now falling mercilessly at the feet of the Old World. In Africa and the Middle East and in the Balkans, we let these conflicts escalate through arms deliveries and false interventions, but also by looking away and keeping our heads down. The global economic and cultural society turns out not to be a one-way street and it is not holding the losers up at state borders, just as it does not stop tourists or business travellers. We have come to arrangements with dictators who are to keep the refugees off our backs and we have let global warming happen, a phenomenon which has become unbearable in many coastal and high-heat regions and will make millions more people leave their homes. Life on the ethnically and (a)religiously homogenous island of affluence is passé, the world is in flames.

As well as honesty, we would gain modesty: no one is promising patent remedies, everything is chaotic emergency aid calling for improvised normalisation and formalisation. This includes the immediate legalisation of refugees who have ended up in Germany, more mobile aid to be provided by the technical relief agency, army and volunteers (a procedure we put in place in the space of three days in distant disaster regions) and making provisional facilities fit for the winter. The status quo is beyond saving. The idea of the “black zero” in budget policy, perhaps understandable with regard to intergenerational justice, is already obsolete; the correction of the social rift by means of minimum wages will come under pressure. In the first few years, refugees will cost more than they bring in through labour for national economies and for social welfare and retirement funds. That means the neoliberal dogma of low taxes on income, companies and inheritances must be abandoned. Immigration policy requires resources that must not be drawn from those who are already disadvantaged.

Mass immigration is the new reality. It will be intense and it will occasionally be exasperating. But there is no changing it: this gives Europe, whose political union appears to be in shards already, the chance to exit its fatigue and disunity.

This article was published in Philosophie Magazin Nr. 2/2016.