The German state of Lower Saxony granted the city of Salzgitter permission to ban new refugees from settling in the city. The decision, made on November 27, contradicts Germany’s previous stance on welcoming refugees. Shortly following the state’s announcement, two other Saxon cities, Delmenhorst and Wilhelmshaven, declared that they would follow suit on the ban. The ban is currently set to last three years.
Salzgitter has up to this point accepted about 5,800 refugees, which is about 5.5 percent of the city’s current population of 108,000. The decision to ban incoming refugees primarily stems from budgetary and financial concerns. Over 90 percent of refugees in Salzgitter are unemployed and on welfare. Since the goal for most Germans is to integrate refugees into society, accepting more refugees will only hinder the integration process and make Germany unable to adequately support the refugees who have already arrived.
The temporary ban is popular with the people of Salzgitter, and locals frequently say that they support the ban not because they hate foreigners, but because the city simply cannot afford to accept any more refugees. Residents, both German nationals and foreign refugees, cite that the kindergartens, welfare offices, and clinics are full and cannot provide appropriate care for more people. Many Germans think that temporarily cutting off new migrants will help ease xenophobic and racist sentiments by alleviating the stress upon the existing society and its economy.
Those who oppose the decision believe that the ban gives ammunition to xenophobic rhetoric. In Salzgitter, the right-wing nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party won 14 percent of the vote in September’s federal elections, the highest share in Lower Saxony. Critics reason that decisions implying that migrants are dangerous will encourage anti-refugee attitudes.
They say more funding, not a ban, is the solution to the problem. To this point, Lower Saxony allocated the three cities in question a total of $23.5 million for 2017 and 2018 to help with refugee integration. However, such programs are expensive, and it is uncertain if additional funds are a sustainable solution.
It is likely that more German cities will follow the example of these three Saxon cities and close their doors to additional refugees. As Germany has yet to form a government amid growing nationalist and populist sentiment, the migrant crisis continues to wreak havoc on all levels of the German state.