Public concern about immigration should not just be dismissed

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Germany’s foreign minister has said that his fellow citizens are too lazy in the battle against racism.

“We have to get off the couch and open the mouth,” Heiko Maas said in an interview with a news publication.

Mr Maas’s comments came as a demonstration was held by 4,500 people in the eastern city of Chemnitz.

They were protesting after a German man was killed in the city, reportedly by migrants from Iraq and Syria. The protesters have been described as “far right” and Nazis.

Genuine far right and neo Nazi groups are repugnant.

But it would be wrong to dismiss the grave concerns across Europe at the wave of immigration that has swept the continent, and is still being repelled in the Mediterranean.

The mass movement of people is a tragedy for those who are fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East, but that does not mean that Europe can necessarily accommodate any more than a fraction of the countless millions who would want to come here.

There is a compelling, indeed obvious, case to be made that the numbers will only rise if it seems that large numbers of people are able to make the journey successfully.

This is a harsh argument to make and some politicians refuse to make it, but they also have a responsibility to their home countries and their native populations.

Often it is people who live in the poorest neighbourhoods who have to compete for low paid jobs with immigrants.

Some hard right wing politicians are deeply dislikable. But it is dangerous to assume that people who are beginning to support such politics across Europe are racist and ignorant.

Such dismissive thinking, often held by people who have had privileged lives and comfortable jobs and who live in upmarket communities where there is almost no immigration, has merely hastened the rise of nationalistic parties across the western world.