Refugees Flood Across Europe, to Waning Welcomes
BONN, Germany (AP) _ Yevgeny and Julia Loukyanov, late of Moscow, spend their days looking in shop windows at things they can’t afford or sitting in a crowded refugee center, wondering what the future holds.
″We can’t work because we can’t get work papers,″ said Julia, 25, ″but the worst thing is, after all this we’ll probably be kicked out of the country.″
The young Russian couple are part of Europe’s greatest refugee migration since World War II. It became a tide sweeping from east to west after the Communist regimes of the Soviet bloc collapsed a year ago.
When the first thousands came, seeking better lives in a more secure future, citizens of the western democracies cheered, embraced them and offered gifts.
But they came in millions, had to be housed and fed, and took jobs westerners felt were rightfully theirs. Welcome began turning to resentment. West Germany committed billions of dollars of public money to the economic derelict that was East Germany for 40 years until reunification.
A combination of the westward flow of Europeans and a huge migration from Third World countries has increased racial and ethnic tensions, created severe housing shortages and caused social welfare costs to balloon.
Now the Soviet Union may be on the point of disintegration, which could add 15 million more refugees to the flood.
″The Soviets themselves have been mentioning anything from 2 million to 15 million,″ said Jonas Widgren, an asylum consultant at the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.
Economic conditions are getting worse in the Eastern European countries, which means the number of people heading west is likely to grow.
″The year 1991 will be the worst year economically for ... Eastern Europe since World War II,″ said Heinrich Machowski, an expert on East bloc affairs at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin.
Nearly 2 million people have sought asylum in 10 western European nations since 1983 and millions more have immigrated illegally.
According to U.N. statistics, the number seeking asylum in the 10 countries soared from 61,100 in 1983 to 300,500 last year.
Nearly 400,000 more are expected by the end of this year, plus about 1 million ethnic Germans who have automatic German citizenship.
In addition to East Europeans, the newcomers include refugees from such countries as Lebanon, Iran, Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
″I left Sudan because I was put in prison for my political views,″ said Ahmed Alseed Gasm, 27, another refugee at the Bonn shelter. ″I need that (residence) permit because I can’t go back home.″
West European nations are tightening immigration laws and cracking down on illegal immigrants, but that has not stemmed the flow.
Public resentment is turning to violence.
In Florence, Italy, earlier this year, masked youths assaulted African street vendors with baseball bats.
Rock-throwing German youths have attacked tent cities set up by Romanian gypsies.
Some parents in a German town refused to send their children to a school whose gymnasium had been a temporary shelter for gypsies. They expressed fear their children would catch diseases or be infested with lice.
Gypsies fleeing ethnic troubles in their home countries are seen on German streets in growing numbers. Several hundred camped out in trailers at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate until police ordered them to leave.
Gangs of young German ″skinheads″ frequently attack Turks, Vietnamese and other foreigners.
In Paris, African immigrants were the targets of an anti-squatter eviction campaign. For weeks afterward, several dozen former squatters lived in makeshift tents at a corner of Sacre Coeur basilica.
Austria, which was the neutral bridge between East and West for decades, sent soldiers to stop Romanian refugees ariving via Hungry. The Freedom Party nearly doubled its parliamentary seats in this fall’s elections, partially on the strengths of its anti-immigration stands.
Germany’s wealth, proximity to the former East bloc and history of generosity to refugees has made it a prime destination.
It expects asylum-seekers to total nearly 200,000 this year, plus the ethnic Germans from former Soviet bloc countries.
Officials said Friday they will assign 20 percent of all asylum-seekers to the formerly Communist east starting in December.
Refugee centers are overflowing. Army barracks, empty warehouses and rented boats on the Rhine are used as emergency shelters.
Yevgeny and Julia Loukyanov left Moscow in October, fleeing a nation they feel is about to come apart.
Social welfare is paying their expenses at the Bonn refugee shelter until a decision is made on their application for asylum.
Officials indicate they have little chance of acceptance because the end of the Cold War removed most reasons for granting asylum to Soviet citizens.