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Hello and welcome to the intelligence on Economist Radio. I'm your host, Jason Palmer. Every weekday, we provide a fresh perspective on the events shaping your world. Traumatic events have clear and often dire effects on individuals, but when the event is experienced by everyone, everywhere, like a global pandemic, the result is collective trauma. We look into how it will manifest and how to heal from it.
And a little beach trip is a simple pleasure, but for Palestinians, sneaking out of the occupied West Bank for a paddle in the Med is a rare bit of freedom. Some will never have seen the sea before. For now, Israel's security forces are looking the other way. But first. Five years ago this week, the growing number of asylum seekers reaching Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared the schaffen does not fish often does this happen? Does and that we can handle this a few days later.
She opened the borders to migrants stranded in Budapest today. Another 10000 migrants made it to Germany, the latest to complain. It was a momentous decision that put Germany at the centre of the European Union's refugee project and just decided to walk to the border with Austria and then all the way to Germany.
Now, board encouraged by Mrs Merkel's decision, more than a million migrants flooded in.
Thank you, Linda Merkel. Thank you. Anyone here? Thank you so much. Initially, Germany handled the influx well, but five years on its experience integrating migrants has been mixed.
We started our way from Turkey, crossing the sea until we get to Greece and from Greece, we were walking until to arrive to Germany.
After leaving Syria, Amah Denmark traveled with his friend to start a new life in Berlin in 2015.
And after I arrived to Germany, I found a lot of initiatives and a lot of phone calls was to help refugees to get integrated. I got a scholarship at University College to study politics, economics and social thought. Also, I have launched my own NGO to support other refugees with all this experience in 2015. I found that Germany has done a lot of things, that integration. It has been successful for some aspects and some not.
I mean, it's been a real mixed picture.
Tom Nuttall is The Economist's Berlin bureau chief.
I think on balance, you probably have to say that Germany has done a little bit better than it might have expected to have done five years ago. By 2018, almost half of the migrants who came between 2013 and 2016 were either in employment or education or some form of training. I think that's better than most people had predicted. Interestingly, it's slightly better than the previous big wave of refugees who came from the disintegrating Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Although, of course, you have a much more robust labor market these days as well.
But once you sort of drill down into the details and the different groups and different backgrounds and different asylum statuses, and you see just how mixed it is, you have substantial numbers of the labor market is not reaching at all. Women are a big, big problem, particularly women who come from backgrounds were entering the labor market is generally not something that it is assumed that they will do.
And if that picture vary across the country, I mean, have these migrants been spread out throughout Germany?
Yeah, that's a crucial element to this. So right from the beginning, Germany distributed its asylum seekers all over the country, according actually to a particular formula. And it's a very complicated picture. Some of the Germany states force asylum seekers to stay in the district to which they assigned or sometimes in the state to which they are assigned. Others grant them full freedom of movement. And you can look at that in two ways. You know, of course, it's a nobody wants to have their freedom of movement restricted, and it may, of course, make it harder for you to find work.
On the other hand, what that means is that you've avoided particular concentrations of migrants, which probably would have happened in some big cities, might have overwhelmed public services, might have created resentment amongst local populations.
And so, in a sense, the responsibility for for getting this integration to work has fallen to the local authorities.
Yes, very much so. And this is a peculiarity, you might say, of Germany, which has a sort of radical, decentralized model of decision making. In many ways, it's good news because integration is a local story, is how your schools work. It's what's happening with your transport system. It's are you able to put on language courses and so on. And so in many ways, that's one of the explanations for the relative success that Germany has had.
There is another side to it, though, and that is that you often get sort of huge inconsistencies between places and those. This can be very confusing and disorientating for migrants themselves when they're confronted by a whole bunch of different authorities and officials at different layers of government. And one of the things that I was quite surprised to learn is that local governments, municipalities and even states don't really seem to talk to each other that much about best practice. You know, what's the best way to educate refugee kids?
What's the best sort of housing policy? They all seem to be sort of scrambling around finding their own solutions, our own ways of doing things. Some of them work better than others. But for the ones that aren't working out very well, they don't seem to be doing very much about learning from the ones that are making a better job of it.
And this mixed picture is for the migrants who have ended up formally welcomed into the system. What about those that didn't feel the asylum seekers and so on?
Yeah, this is a problem that Germany's politicians don't really like to talk about in the big migrant wave of 2015, 2016, inevitably. These were what analysts call mixed flows. It meant that you had everybody from Syrians, almost all of who obtained refugee status when they arrived in Germany to what you might call economic migrants, people who were fleeing hardship, often severe hardship at home, but who weren't, in effect, running for their lives and whose asylum claims have not been granted here.
Now, like almost every rich country with a large number of failed asylum seekers, Germany really struggles with returns or deportation, the extremely complicated and difficult to do. So what you end up with in Germany is its large number of people who have been given this status called dumdum. This means tolerated. And what that really means is that you have no right to be in the country, but we're not going to throw you out now for whatever reason. It's too hard to do or we're not able to do it yet or whatever else it is.
There are more than 200000 people who have this status. There's probably another 50000 people who have no official legal status at all.
And what are those people doing?
Some of these people are, you know, working in the shadows or the black economy. What Germany has done with some of these bildung to make it even more complicated, they have allowed them to get certain types of job or certain sort of apprenticeship and given them, as it were, a stay on their deportation so that they and their employers can have a guarantee that they're not going to you know, they're not going to get a job and then six months later be kicked out.
But none of these people can make long term plans or a long term commitment to Germany because they have the potential for deportation hanging over them.
And what about native Germans? How do they feel about the past five years and how have the effects of all of this wrong?
Down in domestic politics, Merkel's decision to leave the borders open in 2015 was extremely divisive. And I think it actually remains almost as divisive today as it was back then. It's simply that the issue has come off the boil a little bit because, of course, we don't have anything like the numbers coming in as we used to back then. So essentially what Merkel has done, it's sort of interesting to watch. You know, she had her famous version industries.
She abandoned that quite quickly when the public mood began to sour. And now what you hear her saying, what she even said in the last election campaign in 2017 was, well, the decision in 2015 was correct, but it must never be repeated. It's a sort of odd paradox, which is her way of kind of managing the way in which the mood soured. And, of course, what happened in that election in 2017 was the far right alternative for Germany party, which was the only party to very vociferously and loudly opposed the policy in 2015.
It did extremely well.
It's now the third largest party in the Bundestag. And so essentially what this means is that this remains a very, very touchy subject for Germany. They will be very, very keen to do anything it takes to ensure that you never have a repeat of 2015 and 2016. I don't think that necessarily means that the integration efforts are going to be harmed because most people know that the people who are here are going to stay here. But it does mean that the politics of migration and asylum in Germany are pretty much as fraught as they ever have been.
Tom, thanks very much for your time. Great pleasure. Thanks, Jason. When covid-19 hit, the world was confronted with an immediate crisis from front line health care workers to people who had been infected, the most pressing issue was beating back the disease. But now a second crisis, one deeper and longer lasting, is becoming clear the collective trauma of the pandemic.
So collective trauma is kind of a phrase that combines a psychological and sociological way of looking at these mass disasters that affect whole groups of people. Sarah Maslin is The Economist's Brazil correspondent.
An event like a terrorist attack or a flood causes more than just physical damage. It can break the bonds between people, make it harder for people to trust each other and easier to create new wounds. And so how does the pandemic compared to to previous collectively traumatic events? The first thing, obviously, is that it's just massive. The scale of covid-19 is unlike anything we've seen in our lifetimes, probably the last time so many people were traumatized, that once was World War Two.
Disasters due to negligence or violence are more likely to lead to trauma than so-called acts of God like hurricanes or floods. Pandemics don't really fit into either category, but we do have some research from SARS and there's and a review of patients treated for SARS and mares. A year later, a third still had PTSD symptoms. covid-19 has all of the risk factors for PTSD. It is a life changing event. It involves death and fear. It involves an economic recession.
It also involves chronic stressors like uncertainty and daily hassles. So we can expect that far more people will fall into at risk groups for PTSD than at any other time in recent history.
And you've seen for yourself places where people are going to be susceptible to that. Where do you go?
So Parkade as Trebles is a neighborhood on the outskirts of Manolo's, deep in the Amazon, and it's made up of around 35 ethnic groups of indigenous Brazilians. It was hit incredibly hard by covid-19. In May, the local chief died and pretty soon most of the people in the neighborhood had covid symptoms and those who made it back from hospital had horror stories. I spoke to one woman who lost both her brother in law and her father in law. She talked about how hard it was for indigenous people to spend time in the hospital.
The doctors didn't speak their indigenous languages. Her father in law actually ended up leaving the hospital and said it would be better to die at home alone in his hammock.
But also for Semenovich.
When I visited most recently, the virus seemed like a distant memory. Deaths have returned to pre pandemic levels, but there's really a second crisis, lingering trauma that's hit this community and there's going to take much longer to overcome.
So do we have any sense of just how deeply people will be affected?
Well, the good news is that people are extremely resilient. Even after a massively traumatic event. Most people don't develop PTSD. In this case, some things might make covid easier than past traumas. It's slower and it's more dispersed than a natural disaster, which gives governments more time to react. There's also no human enemy to blame. On the other hand, there are certain things that make it harder. The fact that it's universal means that poor countries can't turn to rich ones for money or supplies.
Aid workers aren't arriving the way that they would after an earthquake or a flood. Also, psychologists talk about different stages of healing, remembrance and mourning and starting to reconnect with others, social distancing makes all of this much harder. And if it's a collective effect, it's necessarily made up a bunch of of individual responses. I mean, how how do those vary?
So I posed this question early in the pandemic to Judith Lewis Hermann, a psychology professor at Harvard and an author of the defining work about collective trauma. She said that most of us aren't going to experience PTSD as a result of covid, but some people will have acute stress reaction.
Yes, they may have insomnia. They may have a lot of anxiety, but for people who are going to be highest risk are going to be in the emergency room workers who are seeing one case after another while they're unable to help.
And indeed, this is being confirmed by a lot of preliminary studies of health care workers. One study in Spain showed that more than half are showing signs of PTSD. Judith Lewis Hermann also pointed out that when it comes to trauma from covid-19, we can expect the same inequalities that we're seeing with the virus itself.
The racial disparity so stark in terms of death rates. It's also the virus not only attacks of vulnerabilities of an individual, but attacks the vulnerabilities of a society.
We saw this in studies that came out after Hurricane Sandy that showed that mental health outcomes were similar across demographic groups. One year later, but two years on, once the kind of aid networks that help people had started to peter out in low income communities were faring much worse in terms of depression, anxiety and trauma. So with his experience of collective trauma and the scholarship around it, what do we know about ways to to mitigate its effects, to to limit its impact?
So it's all about social support. So it's really important right now for people to feel a sense of coming together. Even despite all the difficulties, research on disasters has found that received support is less important to long term psychological outcomes than perceived support. In other words, getting lots of donations is less important than people feeling like they have neighbors to call. Another thing that the research has shown is that leadership really matters. It can bring people together in a crisis or it can cause further deterioration.
And so what's the prescription that in a general sense for reducing the effects of this collective trauma? Right, so governments, of course, should be investing in psychological support for people who suffered the worst traumas, health care workers, grieving family members, patients who are on ventilators. Surprisingly, there's a lot of modest things that local communities can do to help people cope with what they've been through in old rituals like religious services and athletic events can be spaces, even if digital for now to come together and start to process and mourn.
It would also be good for communities to start establishing a sort of collective reckoning through memorials or incorporating covid-19 into school curriculum that helps to bring together people for whom this virus was a minor distress and people for whom it was really a life changing trauma. Thanks very much for your time, sir. Thank you, Jason. For a lot more analysis from our international network of correspondents subscribed to The Economist to find the best introductory offer. Wherever you are, just go to economist dotcom slash intelligence offer.
As well as a vibrant cultural and nightlife scene, the Israeli city of Tel Aviv is known for its beautiful beaches. But it's not just locals splashing around in the turquoise waters, Jaffa Beach, just at the southernmost tip of Tel Aviv, has been the scene of a different kind of summer holiday for Palestinian families. Anshel Pfeffer is our Israel correspondent who found ways to sneak out of landlocked West Bank through holes and gaps in Israeli security fence and reach various points on Israel's Mediterranean coast for a very rare few hours of holiday in the sun.
For many of us, especially the younger ones, this will be the first visit ever to the sea and outside of the West Bank due to the conditions of the military occupation and no progress in any kind of diplomatic process to end that. So why is it so rare for Palestinians to get to the beach? Well, three million Palestinians who live in the West Bank, which is essentially landlocked between Israel and Jordan, most of them do not have permits to travel beyond the West Bank.
There are about 70000 Palestinian workers who do have Israeli issued permits to go into Israel every day and work that construction sites and restaurants and other places for the great majority of the Palestinian population in the West Bank. That's where they live and that's where they stay. And even a few hours on a beach, as many of them an unattainable dream. So what's changed here? Why are there an increasing number of Palestinians on the beach? Well, despite the increasing diplomatic isolation of the Palestinians and the fact that there's no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the horizon, the level of violence in the West Bank has been quite low for a number of years now.
And that's led to a certain easing of some of the restrictions by the Israelis. And one of those measures has been to turn a blind eye during the summer to families trying to make it to the beach. What do they find when when they get through or once they're through?
And they usually are met by fellow Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, who some of them are family members. Some of them are just tour operators who whisk them very quickly to various beaches along the Israeli coast. The distance by car from the West Bank to the coast is often just half an hour. So it's not a particularly long journey. And once they're there, they have a few hours, which they can spend on the beach as long as by nightfall they're back in the West Bank.
And did you go down to the beach to to talk to any of them? I did visit one of the beaches, the southernmost beach of Tel Aviv, just before the beginning of the old Arab town of Jaffa and try to speak to some of the families that were not very eager to speak. They're a bit shy and they're naturally wary of police and so on. But what's interesting is it's multigenerational family. So you meet all the men and women who in the past did travel certainly to the coast, but they're back then for the first time in 20 or 30 years.
And they're quite astonished to see how the city has grown. And for the younger people, it's an experience just to be able to touch the sea, to travel in the water and for the first time in their lives to see such a thing. And, you know, most of them don't have bathing costumes to don't know how to swim, but you can see it in their faces. The excitement of just for the first time seeing the sea is something very powerful.
It's a simple pleasure that a bunch of people around them presumably take for granted. These families coming to the beach in Israel is an attempt to here and there find tiny glimmers of a normal life in what is a very abnormal and quite hopeless situation for the Palestinians at large. So it's a very tenuous experience for them. So I wouldn't say that this is an improvement in the conditions of life for the Palestinians in the West Bank. The conditions there are still quite dire, but here and there, they can find these little moments of something approaching a normal life.
Thanks very much for your time and having me. That's all for this episode of the intelligence, if you like us, give us a rating on Apple podcasts and see you back here tomorrow.