The number of refugees in Germany capable of committing terrorist attack in the country has quadrupled since 2011, the German Federal Criminal Police Office, BKA, told government broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
Security concerns have heightened in Germany after close to a million refugees arrived in 2015 from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Africa. Fears worsened when more than 1,200 women were reportedly assaulted in various German cities on New Year’s Eve in 2015.
Officials say there are 657 refugees capable of committing terror attacks and 388 potential accomplices in such attacks.
“There was no proper vetting for the refugees who came here in 2015,” said Alexander Ritzmann, executive director of the European Foundation for Democracy, an NGO that exposes jihadist propaganda and right-wing extremism. “The government is still trying to get a hold on who is actually here.”
Despite German anxiety about terrorists slipping in with the refugees, very few of the 500,000 Syrians who were part of the mass influx have been radicalized. But Ritzmann warned that the refugees are vulnerable to radicalization.
“They have no connection to German culture, language, or food, or anything,” he said, noting that some accept jihadist bromides because they offer easy solutions to the complexity of refugee life. “They offer you answers, and all you have to do is obey their commands.”
Germany’s lack of success in integrating immigrants was highlighted earlier this month when 63 percent of the country’s 3 million Turks who were eligible to vote in the Turkish election supported a referendum to give sweeping new powers to authoritarian Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Germany’s Turkish immigration began in the 1960s.
“Despite living in a democracy and enjoying freedom and safety, these people voted to eliminate democracy in Turkey,” commented Der Spiegel, Germany’s largest circulation magazine.
Many Germans question the nation’s ability to absorb the new immigrants who arrived in 2015 when so many Turks who’ve been in Germany for over half a century haven’t been integrated.
“The belief that a country would benefit from immigration is a belief that only a tiny number of Germans hold,” said Miriam Lau, a correspondent for the respected centrist paper Die Zeit.
According to Lau, Germans have developed many reservations about Germany as an immigrant nation. The same reservations are being voiced in other countries in Western Europe. Central and Eastern Europe are closed to the idea of accepting refugees.
“Turkish people have had a more difficult time integrating in Germany than any other immigrant group,” writes Bilkay Oney, a former state immigration officer of Turkish descent. Her comments appeared on Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public broadcaster.
Paul Hockenos, a writer and author of several books on European politics, notes in an article in Foreign Policy magazine that multiple studies show that Turkish children perform poorly in German schools, adding that Germany’s underclass is disproportionately immigrant.
Many Turks in Germany remain estranged, torn between the freedom and greater material wealth in Germany and love for their Turkish homeland. This estrangement is exploited by Erdogan, who argues that diaspora Turks owe allegiance first to Turkey. This sows divisions between secular Turks who feel rooted in Germany and those more drawn to Erdogan, who also exercises control through Turkish paid imams in the 900 Turkish mosques in Germany.
Earlier this month, Thomas de Maiziere, Federal Minister of the Interior, called on immigrants to embrace “Leitkultur,” or shared German values, which include learning German, accepting German values, a general education, and opposition to the burqa.
Germany’s Green Party and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partner, the Social Democrats, object to the “Leitkultur” standard for Germany’s Muslims.
Turks have consistently experienced discrimination in Germany. Hockenos observes that because the Turks were invited to Germany as temporary workers and then asked to leave, they are not accepted by some Germans and have become marginalized.
Both the Green Party and the Social Democrats believe the “Leitkultur” standard will only further alienate Germany’s 4.5 million Muslims and make integration even more difficult.
And the failure to integrate, some experts say, as witnessed by the immigrant ghettoes in German cities, only increases the terrorist threat.
Donald Snyder was a news producer at NBC for 27 years and has been a freelance writer since his retirement. He specializes in Germany and Eastern Europe.