Tübingen Despatch | International

Anti-refugee politics of a Green populist

Boris Palmer.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Many people in Germany believe that the most recent refugee crisis has created a gap in society. Media and political debates are dominated by the issue.

The country’s political landscape has been shaken up too. While the far-right Alternative for Germany made it into Parliament after last year’s elections, mainstream parties saw heavy internal debates. Chancellor Angela Merkel may be considered as a liberal for her refugee policies, but many within her Christian Democratic Union are not happy with her approach.

Liberal and leftist parties are also struggling to deal with refugee politics. When Sahra Wagenknecht, leader of the left-wing Die Linke, talked about “the withered right to hospitality” of some refugees, many of her party colleagues became outraged. Ms. Wagenknecht has regularly attacked Ms. Merkel’s refugee policy and once said that “not all refugees could come to Germany”, leading many of her party members to say that she was spreading right-wing and racist views.

However, Germany’s most famous anti-refugee politician these days could be yet another person. Boris Palmer, the Mayor of the small town Tübingen in Baden-Württemberg, has regularly made headlines since the refugee crisis started.

Mr. Palmer, a Green politician who was considered “pragmatic” by many till a few years ago, is very active on both social and mainstream media platforms. Besides criticising Ms. Merkel’s policies, he has also attacked refugees and immigrants directly. He claims that many things have changed in his 89,000-people small town since refugees started arriving.

Tübingen is famous for its eponymous university. Though the city is small, the mood is both multicultural and international. In 2016, when Mr. Palmer was interviewed by German magazine Der Spiegel, he claimed that university professors were “worried about their blonde daughters” because of male, violent refugees from Muslim countries. Since then, the Mayor has kept his focus on the alleged danger from young, Muslim men.

‘Shocking rhetoric’

“As a former student from Tübingen, I am deeply shocked by the rhetoric of Palmer. Tübingen is well-known for its welcoming, international atmosphere which is now coming under scrutiny because of a Green Mayor and his populist and blatantly racist positions,” said Anil Altintas, 25, who now lives in Berlin.

Members of Mr. Palmer’s Green Party have distanced themselves from his comments. The Green youth group in Tübingen had criticised him harshly. According to Mr. Altintas, who was a member of the Green youth group, “traumatised refugees are literally forced to face the racist behaviour of an elected official who apparently has nothing better to do than expressing extreme views through social media.” But these criticisms have had little impact on the Mayor.

Mr. Palmer’s views on refugees are no less than that of far-right, anti-immigrant politicians. He has regularly attacked refugees over incidents of sexual assaults. He has also called for racial profiling of Black people and deportation of Afghan refugees.

“I have a problem with the way he handles the issue of sexual harassment. It’s as if we — those who were not born in Germany — are bound to be predators,” said Ahmed Maher, 30, an Egyptian lecturer who lived in Tübingen as a student. “He always implies that it’s a cultural problem and that the values of Arabs, Afghans and Africans don’t fit into Western society. It’s total nonsense.”

Emran Feroz is a freelance journalist based in Stuttgart

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 1:15:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/anti-refugee-politics-of-a-green-populist/article22481667.ece

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