ZEIT ONLINE.- Ultimately, the debate about Merkel's refugee policies centers on the following question: Would the chancellor have been able to slow down or stop the refugee wave if she had done things differently? The answer has to be no. The trigger for people to leave their homes was much more powerful than a few tweets, selfies or photos of cheering Munich residents. The flight of millions of people had four essential causes:Leer el artículo completo, aquí
In summer 2015, the war in Syria worsened
Many Syrians realized in spring and summer of 2015 that there was little chance the situation in their country was going to improve in the near future. In the first half of the year, the regime of President Bashar Assad found its military under increasing pressure and significantly expanded its bombing campaign in response. July and August saw some of the worst attacks on Aleppo, Ghouta and other rebel held areas that had been seen to that point. At the same time, the American air campaign had not yet been able to slow Islamic State expansion. That summer, many Syrians lost all hope, particularly Palestinians in Syria. Their refugee camp in the capital of Damascus, called Yarmouk, had been the target of vicious attacks since 2014 and the exodus of civilians from the camp had been going on for a long time.
Aid groups cut food rations
In December 2014, the United Nations World Food Program no longer had sufficient funding available to supply Syrians in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Although many countries pledged assistance in the months that followed, little actually arrived. On June 27, 2015, the UN Refugee Agency warned that it had received only just over $1 billion of the $4.5 billion it needed and said it couldn't guarantee adequate assistance for the coming winter. The Refugee Agency warned in June 2015 that many Syrians saw fleeing to Europe as their only option.
No work, no visa
Along with Turkey, Lebanon had long been among those countries that had accepted the largest number of refugees from Syria. But in early 2015, the government in Beirut decided it was incapable of providing shelter to more people and introduced a visa requirement for Syrians. At the same time, a rumor began making the rounds in the region that Turkey was planning on doing the same. As a result, in the first half of 2015 many Syrians had the impression that it was their last chance to leave their country. At the same time, the situation of refugees in Lebanon and Turkey had become increasingly tenuous. Only a minority of refugees in the two countries had found shelter in camps and most were on their own. After four years of civil war, many people had used up their reserve funds, but in Turkey and Lebanon, they were not permitted to work. Turkey only lifted the work ban in January 2016 as part of the EU-Turkey deal.
Security situation in Afghanistan worsened significantly
Afghans are the second largest group of refugees, with most of them fleeing because of the rapidly worsening security situation in their country. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), more civilians lost their lives in the country in 2015 than in any year since 2009. The Taliban was able to take over 23 of around 400 of the country’s district headquarters either temporarily or permanently. Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network estimates that between 60 and 100 districts were either controlled or threatened by the Taliban in 2015. Pressure to flee was particularly strong among the mostly Shiite Hazara ethnic group. At the same time, the mood among the population was shifting rapidly. Prior to the 2014 presidential elections, many Afghans had still been confident about their futures. But that changed when the new president proved unable to improve the security situation. In June of 2015, the Asia Foundation carried out a survey of around 10,000 Afghans and 57 percent said they believed the country was moving in the wrong direction. Never before had the result been so pessimistic. In response to the question, "Would you leave the country if you had the chance?" 40 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative. At the same time, many Afghans who had long lived as refugees in Iran left for Europe. There are around 3 million Afghans living in Iran, where they face deep discrimination: Many of them don't have residency permits even after decades of living there, and they aren't allowed to work or, in many cases, study at universities or even attend school. Human Rights Watch also reports that the regime in Tehran forcibly recruited Afghan refugees in 2015 for pro-government militias in Syria. The refugees, the report says, were threatened with deportation back to Afghanistan. Many decided to flee to Europe in response.
All of this suggests that the movement of refugees to Europe had begun long before Angela Merkel made her much-discussed decision that night in September. Espacially from Syria many people had already opened to Germany. Some of the Syrian educated middle class used for a long time contacts here. It is possible that Merkel's actions intensified the movement, that some people took courage to leave their homes because of that. But Merkel was not responsible for triggering the wave. Even if she had acted differently, she would hardly have been able to stem the refugee influx.
But it is also true that political leaders in Germany were well aware of what was happening in Syria and Afghanistan during the first six months of 2015. They also knew about the forecasts made by the Interior Ministry from Aug. 19, 2015. The federal government, the state governments, the police and the civil administration could have done much more to prepare for the arrival of thousands of refugees.