As part of our special coverage ahead of the German elections, we travel to Germany’s deep south, in the state of Bavaria. As the election draws near, tensions are running high in small towns, particularly on core issues such as immigration.
Disagreement centres on how to integrate migrants into the labour market. Who should be allowed to stay and who should be sent back home?
On a building site, we meet Thiare Ousseynou, an apprentice at ABS Kugelmann GMBH. Thiare is from Senegal, a country German authorities consider as safe. Political asylum is difficult to obtain for migrants from such countries.
“When your parents back home are hungry, then it should be OK if their relatives manage to make their way to Europe so they can help out their parents in need,” he says. “There is no war in Senegal. But when you wake up in the morning and you have nothing to eat, this too is a kind of daily battle…”
While the Conservatives and Social Democrats are calling for repatriation agreements to be drawn up with African countries, Green and left-wing politicians oppose such deals.
Thiare’s boss has a high opinion of him – and would like to keep him.
“He speaks good German. But a written test is a real problem. He has no problem communicating with colleagues on the building site, but if he does not pass the written test now he won’t get his certificate… and he will be threatened with deportation. Why should someone like him leave Germany? His country of origin should not matter. Germany needs qualified workers like him,” says Adolf Kugelmann.
Asylum seekers not welcome everywhere
Our next stop is Pfenningbach, on the boarder with Austria. This village of 300 people is preparing to take in 102 asylum seekers. Many in the village say they agree to welcome some refugees, but not that many.
“The local council voted unanimously against the decision. But this local vote was simply ignored by the county council,” says local resident Franz Fuchs.
“In our street, there are 12 houses with 25 residents. And now they want us to integrate 102 asylum seekers!,” exclaims another resident, Martha Danninger.
“It won’t work out,” adds Christian Erntl, who’s also part of the conversation. “You can not squeeze 102 people into such a tiny place. Moreover these 102 people are mostly men from different countries. This will inevitably lead to tension and conflict.”