Most Of Us Do Not know Such An Existence

“Most of us do not know such an existence”

Every third German is afraid of foreigners. Migration expert Wolfgang Kaschuba explains what refugees are afraid of.

ZEIT ONLINE: Mr Kaschuba: One in three women in Germany feels more unsafe, according to a survey, since so many refugees are in the country . What are the refugees actually afraid of?

Wolfgang Kaschuba: There are two varieties of fears. Our anxiety is mostly based on feelings and projections. We are afraid of refugees or Muslims, though we do not know them personally. The fear felt by the refugees has a very different, existential quality. For it is based on experience. Such an existence is unknown to most of us. The escape itself means to be constantly afraid. Many refugees are traumatized. Added to this are the fears of the new environment: to get angry, to get lost, to have lost everything they once had. And finally the fear of the future: Will I again do something sensible, my family around me?

ZEIT ONLINE: How do you know about the fears? There are no representative surveys yet.

Kashuba : Fears are generally difficult to grasp – those of refugees are even more difficult. They keep telling their stories over and over again: they have to tell the smuggler something other than the Greek border official or the German authorities. Refugees often say: “Now I do not have to be afraid anymore”, because they want to express how grateful they are. Therefore, surveys would not provide us with any insights. We win this by conducting long interviews and accompanying people in their daily lives. Then we are with them for 24 hours, in the authorities, in the citizens’ initiative, in the indoor swimming pool, in the refugee home. And they see that they take different roles and each also with a different self-consciousness occur.

ZEIT ONLINE : The fear of racism and expulsion is probably the greatest. How does it express itself?


Is Professor of European Ethnology at the Humboldt University of Berlin and Director of the Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research (BIM). He heads the Department of Integration, Social Networks and Cultural Lifestyles.
Kashuba:  Refugees, of course, are very scared when the mob is roaring in front of the refugee home or being sent away. This fear is partly due directly to experiences. However, some fears arise from the German women, who no longer trust themselves in the park at night. Many refugees believe they can not even go to the streets in Dresden on the bright day. Here, emotions play a role beyond the facts, because refugees spread so many stories about racist attacks or deportations.

ZEIT ONLINE: What about future fears? Any work to find?

Kashuba: Especially for those who come from good circumstances, it can become another trauma if they understand that they never reach the status they once had. They suspect that the female doctor is only a nurse. I know an architect who has been driving a taxi for years. He has now arranged himself, because he can project his ambitions to the daughters who have made it to the Gymnasium.

Many refugees are very afraid that they will not even be able to feed themselves. If they can not tell anyone for a long time who they were, they lose their self-esteem and do not feel respected. This fear can also lead to defiance, rarely even in aggression.

ZEIT ONLINE: Do young refugees also be afraid of German women, or of the more open relations between the sexes?

Kashuba: The feelings are ambivalent. Of course the young men want relations with the opposite sex, and they like it to be more uncomfortable than at home, where the family often watches over the contacts. On the other hand, they are afraid that they can not read the characters correctly and do something wrong. Some people do not trust themselves in the open-air swimming pool, others may go out to look at women.

However, this is not the majority. Many Syrian refugees, for example, come from big cities where they go to clubs that are not much different than those in Berlin. You can more or less confidently deal with the lifestyle here. The others from the rural regions are warned in their networks, whereupon they have to be careful.


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