Sumte seems to epitomise the challenges thrown up by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “open-door” policy in Europe’s deepening refugee crisis. The village has just taken in the first of more than 750 asylum-seekers and new arrivals will soon outnumber its inhabitants by seven-to-one.
Yet despite the copious accommodation, large canteen and Arab-speaking security guards laid on for the first 229 Syrians and asylum-seekers from 18 other countries who arrived in the village this week, Sumte poses major problems for its new population – starting with the absence of mobile-phone reception.“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to play ‘Candy Crush’,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Despite protests from Sumte’s residents’ about the size of the refugee contingent assigned to the village, the regional government of Lower Saxony, where the hamlet is located, agreed only to reduce the number of new arrivals from the 1,000 initially planned to 750 this year.
“There has been no date set for the refugees’ departure. Any asylum-seekers who move to others part of Germany will be replaced by new arrivals,” said Jens Meier of Germany’s Samaritans association, which runs the refugee centre.They are here to stay. Or to move freely about, once through the door on Fortress EU, to wind up in Bethnal Green and Leicester.
Ain’t the EU great?
The residents’ reaction has been mixed. Reinhold Schlemmer, a 72-year-old former Communist who was mayor while the village was part of the former East Germany, said he was delighted it could play a significant role in alleviating the suffering of refugees.
“At least we can give them safety, food and a roof over their heads; for these people it means a great deal,” he told The Independent.But not as much as wireless 3G, clearly…
On the outside of a neat modern red-brick bungalow not far from the refugee camp, Sumte resident Christian Schreiber had just installed a series of heat-operated searchlights designed to illuminate his front garden as soon as a person neared the property.
“This is just a precaution in view of what is happening in Sumte. I did this mainly because my wife was worried,” he said. In a sign that Sumte’s residents may be concerned about preserving the village’s Teutonic character, a German flag was flying in the front garden of a timbered farmhouse.
A woman in her fifties appeared on the village’s otherwise empty street. She didn’t want to be named.
“I don’t see why we should have to take in these numbers. It won’t work. There is nothing for them here,” she insisted.Better not say this on Facebook, Frau Anon.
However, unlike other parts of former Communist East Germany, Sumte has no xenophobic Pegida movement and support for the anti-foreigner Alternative for Germany party is no higher than the national average. Mr Niemann says his attempts to generate opposition to the refugee population have yet to bear much fruit.Wait until it starts to look a lot more like downtown Oslo, and the no-go areas start appearing. Or wait until it looks like Paris did on Friday...