Outdoor World

102 villagers, 750 refugees, one grand experiment

The long speak: In the autumn of 2015, Germany labelled the hamlet of Sumte as a sanctuary for hundreds of displaced people. What followed was a test of the two countries deepest principles


There is no cinema in Sumte. “There wasnt” general stores , no saloon, gyms, coffeehouse, sells, schools, doctors, florists, automobile stores or libraries. “There wasnt” playgrounds. Some roads are paved, but others seldom distinguish themselves from the clean grass and swampy tractor roads surrounding each residence modest plots that point into the farmland and medieval woods of Lower Saxony. “They dont have” converging hall. All is private and premodern.

One day in October, after a thousand years of evening gloomines, a production crew arrives and texts the main street with LED street lamps. The illuminations are a concession to the villagers all 102 of them from their political originals in the nearby municipality of Amt Neuhaus, who organize Sumtes things and must report to their own originals in Hanover, the state capital of Lower Saxony, who in turn must report to their originals in Berlin, who send ambassadors to Brussels, which might as well be Bolivia, so impossibly remote do the villagers find that black hole of tax euros and goodwill.

Its this ambiguous chain of command that most alienates the people of Sumte. They are pensioners and housepainters. They are farmers, survival and commercial. They are carpenters, clerks and passengers who cross the River Elbe by shuttle every morning, driving to jobs in Lneberg or Hamburg, 90 instants away. More than a few are out of work. None tells them anything.

Which is not to suggest anyone here is unaware of whats going on in the world in 2015. The parties of Sumte are not yokels( or hinterwlder , as the Germans suggest ). Word has reached Dirk Hammer, the bicycle repairman, and Walter Luck, the apiarist, about the capsizing trawlers, the panic in Lampedusa. They watch the nightly news. Theyve heard of this crisis. And they think where these parties more than a million of them are leader. The streetlights, a long-standing seek now mysteriously granted, become them suspicious.

Only Reinhard Schlemmer watches the workmen and knows for certain. A grizzled representation with a wild burrow of silver “hairs-breadth”, Schlemmer was once an officer in the East German infantry. These periods he sells coating gives out of the detach shed behind his home, a nominal business that mostly dishes as an excuse to schmoozes with neighbours. He may have lately fallen into the role of strange old boy on the margins the unreformed socialist with his cans of primer but he was Sumtes mayor when their own borders came down, a decorated defendant member, and his demeanor still proposes something of the word pillar of the community.

A progeny playing on straw bales near Sumte Photograph: Valerie Schmidt

After reunification, as farming collectives dissolved and unemployment rose, Schlemmer came up with a astute plan to save Sumte from extinction. He convinced a rich tycoon in Hanover to invest in the construction of a huge complex on its outskirts, a private village-within-the-village where East German maidens would teach to become caseworkers for a debt-collection agency.

The plan labor. The part opened in 1994 and for almost 20 years, the agency provisioned errands for 250 maidens from Sumte and neighbouring towns in Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg, becoming the different regions largest employer. But the 2008 financial crisis razed its external debt sell, and in 2012 the agency , now called Apontas, decided to consolidate its operations in Hanover. A few maidens moved with them. The respite lost their jobs. The composite has stood empty ever since.

Now Schlemmer supposes back to the moonless darknes a month ago when he was out in his yard, gazing in the various regions of the weedy heap at the blackness where the darkened Apontas buildings overshadowed a wedge of suns. He “ve thought about it” pitiful infant torso lying in the Turkish surf. All the children out in the grunge, he recollects visualizing. And all of our halls standing empty. He asked himself: what is to be done?

Its an oddly warm October morning when Grit Richter, sitting in her modest mayoral part in Amt Neuhaus, gets a phone call from the interior ministry in Hanover. An executive shows to her that Sumte will receive 1,000 asylum seekers starting at the conclusion of its month, to be housed in the Apontas office complex. Richter isnt sure shes heard correctly. Yes, the executive supposes, they know that Sumte is small. They also know that the complex is evacuate and disused. But the hamlet has something that no other municipality in the area can boast: 21,000 square paws of dry shelter. Her options, shes told, are to say yes or yes.

She hangs up. Like a lot of Germans, Richter is sceptical, pragmatic, stolid. Not much escapes her when it comes to the 4,700 ingredients living in mete hamlets from Stiepelse to Wehnigen, but she cant keep track of everything. She doesnt hitherto know that Reinhard Schlemmer has been busy building telephone call of his own, offering up the Apontas complex and defining this new idea in motion.

Before long, news of the thousand refugees has spread up and down the Elbe. Richters phone starts ringing and doesnt stop. She schedules situations of emergency find at the Hotel Hanover, Amt Neuhauss only inn.

That evening, she leaves her part and crosses the town square to the inn. The banquet hall is classic 1970 s GDR, a mauve-and-faux-wood assemblage fit for a politburo confab. The fake blooms are sun-faded, the parquet is as worn as a roller rink. Precisely now the area is in chaos. Four hundred neighbourhood parties have crammed themselves inside, backed all the way to the foyer.

Someone has also alerted the media, and Richter eyes without tendernes the journalists who are pressed against the back door, interviewing her ingredients. The floor, it seems, is a perfect metaphor for the crisis 1,000 refugees to 100 villagers, an overwhelming intrusion and Richter knows that the journalists wish to be captivate a anxiety. She marched to the stage and starts talking as calmly as she can.

Until the moment Richter received the phone call, the most contentious municipal edition Amt Neuhaus has in the past faced was the proposed creation of a connection in the various regions of the broad and placid Elbe a project that has combined inhabitants against the feckless local government for nearly a century and a half. A connection would lessen commute times and attract more investors. A connection could change everything for these dying towns. Now be thought that your mayor collects the whole community into a cramp and crumbling East German banquet hall and announced today the federal government has told not the long-desired connection, but a refugee core, one that will require expensive redevelopments and have unknown importances. The atmosphere in the area is not good.

At the back of the hall, two agitators from the National Democratic Party( NPD) unfold a large Germany for Germans flag and heckle the crowd with yells of asylum horror. Other locals are quick to escort them out of the hall. “They dont have” swell of support around here for the extreme right, unlike in many neighbouring areas. But its too late to keep the press away. Interviews with the two men accompany the majority of members of the articles on Sumte in the working day to run, including in the New York Times.

Once the NPD activists are get, Richter disperses cold facts: the EU is taking on 5,000 new migrants every day, and is expected to have received at least 3 million by the end of 2017. Germany will have 800,000 new migrants by the end of this year, and it appears that most will be allowed to stay. There are tough decisions to be made in every municipality in Germany and this much has been set for them: the building complex in Sumte will be leased for one year to the Laborer Samaritan Federation( ASB ), a private benevolence that specialises in disaster relief. Maximum occupancy will be maintained throughout the year. They will all regroup and reassess next October.

Jens Meier, administrator of the regional ASB office, expresses next. Meier is a warm, lumbering barrel of a serviceman. The ASB lopes dozens of relief programmes in Germany and abroad, and precisely a glance at Meier makes it clear that there can be nothing amateur or florid or evangelical about any of them. He tells the crowd that he will permit no mischief in the Sumte camp, and abide no coercion to areas outside. Theyre going to hire Arabic-speaking sentries and put in bound fences. The inhabitants will be free to come and go as they delight, but townsfolk will need an invitation to enter. Its an isolating tactic, but a required one, he supposes. The asylum seekers, who will soon arrive from Syria, Albania, Sudan 18 beleaguered countries in all must be protected. But theres good news, very, he supposes. There will be somewhere between 60 and 80 place openings at the clique, from janitors to German instructors.

The parties are not placated. I have two daughters, a woman supposes. How can I protect them? Others want to know about the doctors parts and kindergartens in Amt Neuhaus. Will they be overrun? Theres no police headquarters closer than Lauenburg, 20 miles away what if theres a sudden syndicate? An assault? Even the plumbing in Sumte will need to be overhauled. Still others are worried about the safety of the refugees themselves. Dirk Hammer, the bicycle-maker and handyman who are participating front and core at the find in a crisp gingham shirt, says hes sick to his gut with the believed to be what could happen , not just in Sumte but throughout Germany, if the extreme right organises against refugees. His clas has lived in Sumte for 400 years.

Jens Meier, boss at the ASB refugee camp in the conference room Photo: Valerie Schmidt

Within a few periods, Richter convinces the ministers in Hanover to increase the number of refugees from 1,000 to 750. The journalists report that there will soon be seven refugees to each villager in Sumte. Sieben zu eins ( Seven to one) becomes a viral catchphrase. One correspondent describes Sumtes inhabitants as the begrudging criteria of Willkommenskultur , the culture of openness that Germany has articulated for itself in response to the preceding century of geopolitical stupidity. The entire world is watching, he supposes. And for a few weeks, hes right.

Germany ratified its current constitution in 1949. Constitutions tend to reflect the conditions in which they were drafted and Germanys is concerned with the threat of dictatorship and the plain, unambiguous declaration of human rights. The first sentence of its first clause reads, in its entirety, Human dignity shall be inviolable. Its founders even contributed a rider enshrining the right to asylum for people escaping political abuse. In 1992, during a waving of movement following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Germanys parliament voted to restrict this previously unqualified privilege to asylum, but the clause remained in place, and the UN continued to affirm the rights of asylum seekers to find safe conceal without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin.

Then, two years ago, more than thousands and thousands of asylum seekers crossed into Europe, and the UN had no idea what to do. The worlds displaced had been steadily growing in figure for years, increasing by more than 50% since 2011 as crisis begat crisis. By the start of 2015, there were more displaced people than at any time since the second world war. Most of the externally displaced take refuge in other impoverished countries, as is nearly always the case; precisely 4% manufactured it into any part of the European union. It was still the largest movement into Europe since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

In August 2015, as 100,000 parties stood at the closing of the Hungarian mete, the Germans reflected on their constitutional imperative. This was long before the rise of Donald Trump and the resurgence of a strain of nativist populism within Germany. The feeling was sufficiently humanitarian in those periods that Germanys chancellor, Angela Merkel, experienced feel compelled to emit three now-infamous messages: Wir schaffen das .( Well organize it, or Well do it .) Meaning: well accept any lawful political refugees who can reach us.

The messages marked the beginning of a new kind of civic venture. Countries do not ever, or even very often, perform the ideals one finds inscribed into granite plinths around their capital cities. Now Germany was actually going to try to uphold the spirit of its 60 -year-old constitution, with its singular pertain for human dignity. I was living in Berlin at the time and among my friends, Merkels messages felt like nothing short of a full-scale rewiring of the modern nation-state, which has always involved certain premises of ethnic solidarity. This new openness experienced unprecedented.

Some envisioned Germanys stance as our efforts to make a kind of eventual redres for historical sins: a progressive atonement underwritten by the guiltiest country in the contemporary world. But to actually revisit the summer of 2015 is to remember that Germany did not plan to act by itself. All members of the European union were expected to uphold the commitments to international asylum to which theyd agreed. Merkel also defiantly was expected that wealthy, cosmopolitan countries such as Canada and the United States would take seriously the phrases written in their own founding documents and on the plaques of their conceal effigies, opening their doors a little wider to these needful, these tired, these war-ravaged good. It didnt happen. A handful of rich countries with small populations Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and Denmark did resettle comparatively large numbers of refugees. Otherwise, except for a paltry few thousand in France and Italy, and the 10, 000 Syrians per year that President Obama added to the United States modest annual intake , none of it happened. Germany stood alone.


By December 2015, Sumtes population has tripled 102 citizens, 229 displaced and stateless guests. Asylum seekers are streaming into Germany, and those to be given to Sumte continue to arrive daily by the busload only to disappear into the fenced-off camp.

An Advent concert at St Marys, the Protestant church in Amt Neuhaus, offers the first opportunity for commingling. Villagers and refugees pack into the age-old brick religion to listen to an evening of carols and chant, and to fulfill their mutual interest. Near the conclusion of its darknes, 70 well-rehearsed, mostly Syrian babes rise to sing O Tannenbaum, and for a moment there can be no argument about the goodness of whats being done here.

Behind the situations, Jens Meier of the ASB is the busiest serviceman in Lower Saxony. Im operating like an American, he jokes. Hed had just eight proletarians at the start of the renovations, but hes since poached 14 from another clique to body-build bedrooms and a health core. A sign on the community bulletin board in Sumte promotes openings for nannies, scavenging gangs, moves, custodians, teachers, and social workers.

Aside from Meier, the most visible representations that wintertime are dozens of girls from the clique, who move through municipality in a vaguely threatening cloud of pubescence. Theyre restless. There is no school save the overstuffed and optional German categories held in the clique, and their days pass in unstructured idleness. Its clear that before long a scandal will occur, and one evening a group of boys and young men amble the two miles to the supermarket in Amt Neuhaus, where they buy a few bottles of liquid. There is no drinking in the clique itself , nor any smoking so back in Sumte they park themselves at the derelict cement bus stop on Hauptstrae. There the boys do what boys do in cramped bus stops, and in the morning all the bottles, cigarette butt, and generous blazons of vomit are discovered by the hamlet children on their method to school.

Not exactly mob or slaying, but its a piquant enough episode to ride the latticework of gossip that are linked hamlet to village along the Elbe, and the news soon contacts Meier. He hears which takes responsibility, and by nightfall the boys have dutifully snapped on latex gloves and are cleaning up the bus stop with swabs and brooms. For the next few weeks, the people of Sumte speak of little else.

All but the sourest villager agree that the episode is a clear succes for Meier, who by playing quickly and with paternal firmness seems to have proven something important about the whole struggle. Its all right now, Jens cleansed it all up, one balk housepainter( Ill announce him Thomas) tells me, and from the working day forward I cant find anyone willing to emit a harsh or even ambivalent text against the ASB chief. He has proven himself. Meier also gives up a teenage core in an empty backstage of the clique, transforming it into a sport hall with ping pong tables and a rink for skateboarders, after which all incidents of roosterish adolescent antagonism appears to recede. Were discovering as we go, he supposes, pleased.

By Christmas, the clique hallways echo with the polyglot yells of 189 babes. They scream, they screech, they sing O Tannenbaum ad nauseam. Outside the clique, extended categories come home for the holidays. Sparklers, bottle rockets, and flutes of sparkling wine portend the new.

A few a few weeks later, on a bus in Lower Saxony, I move through reports about the mass sexual assaults at New Years Eve celebrations in Cologne. By now the eyewitness chronicles please give method to rightwing demagoguery. The perpetrators, it is believed, included several refugees, or if not refugees at least Muslims at the moment , no one seems sure. Although the two attacks is an anomaly, and although the majority of members of the refugees have been quiet and law-abiding, “the member states national” feeling toward Merkels asylum politics has curdled. The rightwing populist defendant Alternative fr Deutschland agitates for the removal of refugees and the closing of borderlines. There commences a string of attacks on asylum shelters that police seem unable to stop.

The bus plummets me off on the edge of Amt Neuhaus. Chicken coops are quaggy with snowmelt. I leave my events at the Hanover Hotel and stop in at the town hall to see Mayor Richter, who is her usual unflappable ego. The most pressing edition, she tells me, is to learn the entrances German so that they might have a chance on the job market. This seems a little premature. Has there been much integration between the cities and the clique? Are there any hopes or programmes to help them understand the German labour markets? Youll have to ask Jens about that, she supposes. Hes more involved. There are many nice events he can talk about.

In Sumte, the villagers attitudes toward the camp evident in strange directions. The pony farm across the street has posted signalings in German, Arabic and English asking passersby to delight not touch the Arabians. I call out to a serviceman Ive decided is necessary the farm owner, but he waves me away. Parties are sick of journalists. Dirk Hammer, the bicycle-maker, has told me theyre unfortunate that theyve been drawn as prejudiceds, when the truth, he supposes, is that were simply pertained. Some take note when the district patrol car from Lauenburg is parked outside the clique, a sure sign, they belief, of another scuffle between thriven servicemen, one of whom cant stand the others commonwealth or religion. “Theres” occasional opposes ever catalysed by alcohol, Meier supposes but a few months later, on my last-place see to Sumte, a picket will tell me that the clique is by far the most cordial of the four or five hes wreaked at. Most often the police come by to enjoy a beaker of coffee, which a secretary renders me as soon as I walk in the door.

The main hall of the clique is alive with the energies of the dispossessed. It is at peak capacity: 754 refugees, alongside about 60 employees. Parties have nothing to do here but practise their German and gather in the halls with beakers of red-faced tea, dispensed from a giant samovar sitting on the folding table of an ad hoc coffeehouse. I find Meier. He says hed still like more assist but there havent been many voluntaries from the hamlet. I request how many exactly. Id say its about sefr , he laughs. Sefr is Arabic for zero. Among those who are helping out is Hammer, “whos been” compiling disused bicycles and sterilizing them for the clique inhabitants. But its not like you know them very well, Hammer shrugs. Its like with other parties in the hamlet. You just say hello.

I say hello, very, introducing myself to a few of the young men loitering in the main hall. They hail from Iraq, Syria, Palestine. They gesture to their sleeping quarters inside one of the attached warehouses, a enormous warren of semi-private cells.

Renate Schieferdeckers religion in Amt Neuhaus. Photo: Valerie Schmidt

Sitting down with a coffee and the neighbourhood newspaper afterward the working day, I speak that there is nothing to been an arson attack on a small refugee camp in Barsinghausen, near Hanover. Back at the inn, the Tv news airs a segment on other arson strikes that followed a Pegida demonstration in Dresden. Meiers anxiety about security seems justified.

Yet the isolation in the clique seems extreme, particularly in the middle of wintertime. There can be no neighbourly drop-ins from the hamlet next door. Nor can categories cook dinner together or nuzzle in quiet repose. They must make do with their assigned bedrooms, a generous euphemism for the jaundiced mattresses and flimsy plastic area dividers every family experiences. Despite Meiers best efforts, he cant action their home communities into existence. He is happiest when the residents transform the clique for their own implement. When a trilingual Moroccan mentioned Abo has the idea to open a shisha table inside the clique, Meier relaxes his proscription against inhaling for the sake of general camaraderie. For weeks thereafter, whiffs of pomegranate and strawberry discover a breezy fragrance from the front of the complex as far gone as Schlemmers living room.


As the working day get longer, pastures and pastures come back from the dead. The refugees begin to speculation out beyond the areas of the clique in some cases leaving Sumte wholly. At first its precisely a handful of young men in February and early March. It doesnt seem to bother the locals, the majority of whom are occupied during my next visit with the business of Easter.

On Holy Saturday morning I talk to Thomas, the shy housepainter, out in his driveway on the bridle path. A clas feast is about to begin. He still hasnt had much contact with the refugees. His spouse has tried to visit the clique to volunteer, but the ASB sentries are unfriendly and surly. It frightens parties off, he supposes. Its like “theres” two towns living side by side.

In Amt Neuhaus, Renate Schieferdecker is preparing her speech. She shares a pastorship with her husband, Matthias. Rural towns in Germany no longer have the population to support a clergyman in every rectory, so the decreed are spread across multiple faiths. The Schieferdeckers organize eight Lutheran churches of dwindling, white-haired membership.

I suggest to Schieferdecker that the arrival of so many new inhabitants must have seemed like a unique opportunity to draw more souls into the Christian fold. She looks at me like Im crazy. We were naturally pertained when the news came, she supposes. Most of the worries had to do with financing of the onu on the town. And then there was the culture shock. She discloses that shes heard about some problems with western-style lavatories( Muslims have to washing several times a day, and they were going sea everywhere ), and with what she describes as Afghan-Persian infighting( Any age you get an Afghan and a Persian together, there will be conflict ). Like everybody else, she praises Meier for administering events wonderfully.

On Monday afternoon, a brass clique unpacks trombones and cornets in the church transept. About 20 churchgoers show up to hear the musicians ejaculate their method through a half hour of chant with perceptible enthusiasm, if not much knowledge. The last-place entrances are four Iranian servicemen in their early 20 s. One is awkwardly overdressed in a powder-blue suit. They sit in the last pew and dont talk to anyone. Most Iranians are not long in Amt Neuhaus once they learn of the diaspora in Hamburg.

Yes, Schieferdecker supposes after the concert, the refugees are leaving. In previous months, a handful of curious Muslims would stop by the church each week. She depicts me Arabic and English versions of the parable of the sower shed had typed up and reproduced. But now no one comes.

Its hard to say how many refugees are left, Meier tells me a few hundred less than capacity. He cant stop them after leaving. Between the isolation and the startle of the frigid German wintertime, he supposes, the unmarried servicemen, including with regard to, became disheartened. The desire to leave outweighs their monthly allowance. Some knock on Schlemmers door to ask, in admirable if choppy German, how to reach Sweden or Hamburg. Helpful even in the face of default, Schlemmer gives bus schedules. He doesnt crave anyone to get lost. But others precisely start moving, along the road or straight into a province. Before they leave they sometimes bare their feelings to Meier, and in doing so they resonated an horrid heap like Sumtes NPD pariahs: Theres nothing here for a stranger, they say. No errands , no possibilities, and not a small problem no way to meet maidens. Even Abo leaves, and without him the shisha table closes.

In March, four countries Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and Macedonia close their borders in response to the 123,000 migrants who territory in Greece at the start of 2016. This impasse slackens the inflow of migrants to a trickle. There is no great outcry in Germany, where last-place autumns confidence has been replaced by the rise of populist parties and media reports, rarely impartial, of migrant violations. Merkels Wir schaffen das has grown an ever-lengthening fanny of asterisks and footnotes.

All spring long, in the world beyond Sumte, charts of refugees appear in international papers. Theyre virtually interchangeable, these action-packed chronicles of harrowing tours to Europe. I speak many of them and even write one or two myself. I notice that most narrations of asylum by western journalists fall into the same net of condescension: dropping their subjects into simple characters of woe and good planned. They crave a ceiling, a place. They desire Europe and democracy. They digest nobly at the hands of German bureaucrats.

If it is a dehumanising lie to suggest that all refugees are felons, as the rightwing press seems content to do, it is no less a lie to illustrate them as hapless casualties. My working experience suggest that refugees are as diverse as any other arbitrarily assembled group of parties. Between his trip to Sumte I congregate dozens of them while volunteering at an English-language class for refugees in Berlin, and while inspecting other camps and activist groups around the country.

I meet and profile for a publication a Syrian rapper from Aleppo who stands in awe of Run-DMC and Eminem, and who lives in a city on the Baltic coast. Hes lonely and depressed. Hes also a ardent Muslim and writes anti-gay screeds on his public Facebook news feed, but when the photographer calls him out on his bigotry, my chart subject seems truly hurt. Later he tells me without a discover of dissembling that hes reformed his opinions. Hes a European now.

I meet a 17 -year-old boy from Afghanistan who expresses no English but is a graded chess musician and, based on what Im able to gather from his acquaintances, an academic prodigy. I befriend a committed Marxist from Tartus, Syria, who is not an asylum seeker but a graduate student in economics. And I become close with another Syrian, a former revolutionary from Aleppo who sheds wild parties and whose mothers, once wealthy magnates, have been living in a refugee camp outside Berlin for more than two years.

These parties would make good profile subjects, which is to say they arent the ones Germans some Germans are afraid of. Rarely, I congregate one of those. For a few weeks, at the language class, I learn English to a serviceman from Libya who cannot returning himself to take instruction from any of the female voluntaries or even shake the status of women handwriting. He precisely smiles and shakes his head. Other servicemen at the voluntary program, though more willing to integrate , nonetheless fail to improve their English or German, even after several months of rule. How can they hope to find work here?

Im not sure its possible to tell any of these narrations clearly, with open heart and without plan. I wonder how much good it would do anyway. Everyone I talk to seems to have already made a decision about the refugee question: whether to open borderlines wholly No borderlines! No people! or close them to the masses of false refugees, secret terrorists and financial migrants who, according to politicians on the right, even up the majority of asylum seekers. It impresses me that if what Germany is trying to do is ever going to work, it will depend not on the purity or woe of the migrants where the media has chosen to rest its visions but on the beliefs, racisms, and panics of their hosts.


By May, Meier has chastised the majority of members of the shortcomings that had disturbed the clique in its first months. The internet wields. There is a fine canteen , not to mention a laundry service, shuttle buses to Amt Neuhaus, the teenage core, schoolrooms, a mobile phone shop, a medical core, healers parts even a movie darknes, the programming of which is determined by a committee of tenant moms.( They insisted that it should all are in conformity with German, Meier supposes. Its the first cinema Sumte has ever had .)

He has more time to improve the clique now that so few inhabitants are left to care for. Into the summer, more and more parties leave of their own accord , not just servicemen now but pairs and categories. Precisely 80 inhabitants continue, mostly categories with young children. The hallways are hushed.

If only marriage had the internet from the start, Meier requiems, citing a popular complaint among the early entrances. Parties might have fastened around, learned the language, determined some work.

I ask Meier whether he belief the clique will continue to accept any new refugees. He takes a while to respond, and when he does it is with what seems like a non sequitur. He tells me he often thinks about Alberta. Have I heard of it?

Were sitting outside its term of office in the Sumte camp. The only window gazes out on another opening. On the door someone has taped a piece of paper that reads Big boss. Meier was living in Hanover but he eschews city life and often finds himself thinking about Alberta, that pristine Canadian landscape. The First Nations parties of Canada lives there, he supposes, and I realise he may have rehearsed this sermon for precisely such an moment. The Canadian authority offers them coin, but they dont want coin, he supposes. They want to live in an unspoiled landscape. They want to live at home. And this this is what one wants all over the world: to stay at home, to continue to have a home.

So now politicians in Europe have closed their own borders, he booms. Merkel has represented her deal with Turkey. Yet none of the problems that established these mass the two movements of parties in the first place have been solved. Assad continues to bomb his own citizens with impunity, he supposes. Afghanistan and Iraq are rupturing. These are big problems, he supposes. Our categories here come from campaign, they come from total poverty. This is the world Meier is responding to: the worlds 65 million uprooted.

The clique in Sumte. Photo: Valerie Schmidt

So surely, to answer your question, Meier supposes, it may be that well get more refugees. If the minister calls me tomorrow and supposes, Mr. Meier, you must take hundreds more, its no problem. Well see what happens the summer months. But were ready: the clique, the town, everyone is ready. If the refugees can only get here, well take them. Well take them all.

In September the trees are heavy with pears, with apples, with powdery plums. A squall has passed over Sumte and the ignite is honeyed. At the clique a belated mansion has appeared outside the front entry :< em> Herzlich Wilkommen . Through the textile, its easy to make out the more apposite text facing the buildings doors: Auf Wiedersehen .

The refugees are get. About 80 have set around Amt Neuhaus in Soviet-era apartment cubes, but the respite have left. Angela Bagunk, the innkeeper in Amt Neuhaus, tells me shes sorry to see them go. She experienced the liveliness that sunk on the town for a few months. There were even queues at the supermarket, she supposes. Her business also benefited from the influx of news gangs, the reporters from al-Jazeera and Der Spiegel sidling about the woodpiles.( All these reporters, tigering around, Schieferdecker had told me .) Now its quiet again.

In her part, Richter supposes the clique was a great success. There were no Nazis , no mobs , no violence. Thats all she could have hoped for.

I drop in on Dirk Hammer, who is busy in his workshop. He experiences ambivalent about the camps closing. A years ago he had railed against Hanover and Berlin in Facebook posts that scorned politicians with no concrete solutions to the crisis. But he had come to be one of the most recognisable faces in municipality when the media circus sunk. He was the bicycle serviceman, a welcoming representation. Now he stops his work to tell me that what the area really needs what no correspondent will dare reporting under is errands: not the 60 or 70 that the refugee camp provisioned, but hundreds. Its pathetic that the clique close will entail the loss of production, he supposes, but where was the public commotion when Apontas moved away? It has nothing to do with refugees, he supposes. We necessitate jobs.

Which isnt to say they wouldnt do it again. Of route we would, he supposes, but we wouldnt inevitably be happy about it. He belief for a minute. Although we did get the street lamps.

In town the new lampposts are adorned with campaign signs for next weeks state polls. Nominees are once again predicting a bridge.

All photograph by Valerie Schmidt

A longer version of this paper firstly appeared in the Outpouring 2017 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review, which focuses on Europes migration crisis. To find out more, see vqronline.com

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Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ news/ 2017/ apr/ 19/102 -villagers-7 50 -refugees-one-grand-experiment

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