"It isn't the case that everything always has to be perfect"

Entrepreneurial couple Mr and Mrs Kirchhoff from Attendorn make a case for less bureaucratic aid for refugees

Attendorn. His words carry weight. Right up to the office of the Federal Chancellor in Berlin, people pay attention to what he thinks. So when Arndt Günter Kirchhoff, the entrepreneur from Attendorn in Germany, expresses an opinion on matters of the economy or society, then it is worth listening. Where the issue of refugees is concerned, Mr Kirchhoff is doubly involved personally. The Vice-President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry and President of METALL NRW is arguing for refugees to be granted temporary residence permits: "The German industry wants the asylum seekers to be able to get to work sooner. We have the facilities, we just need to be allowed to get started." Arndt Günter Kirchhoff is convinced that, for a lot of jobs, the main requirement is a willingness to get involved. And where his own industry is concerned, the automotive supply industry, he knows of course: "Technology doesn't need all that many words; the main requirement is manual skill." Of course, he adds, language classes are necessary, as soon and as effective as they can be: "But do we always need qualified teachers from the get-go; do volunteers who can pass on initial, basic words not also sometimes suffice in the first instance?" As for businesses in the German region of South-Westphalia, Mr Kirchhoff is unequivocal: "We have the facilities, we are ready to take on new staff, we just need to be allowed to get on with it." The legislator would need to make certain concessions in that regard, though: "If we offer the refugees training, they need to be allowed to work for us in their field for at least two years afterwards. Otherwise it's simply not worth it for the companies."

Humanitarian aid a given

Equally where society is concerned, Arndt Günter Kirchhoff has very specific ideas and direct experience too. He shares them with his wife Dr Ina Kirchhoff. For her it is nothing less than a humanitarian given that the refugees are provided with aid when they arrive here: "These people need to find a purpose in their lives again as soon as possible, and we ought to stand side-by-side with them as best we can in that regard." The rural region of South-Westphalia, she adds, already has an extraordinarily open and positive attitude towards the refugees; that has been the experience of Mr and Mrs Kirchhoff time and again over the past few weeks and months in the area they live in. "Here everyone, of course, is an active member of at least three societies", Arndt Kirchhoff comments. "That itself results in an incredibly exciting social life. Our community works, be it in societies, in churches or at companies." Plus there are all kinds of private initiatives where volunteers offer help. "But", the Kirchhoffs say, "the authorities can't keep applying the brakes in the form of restrictions and laws. It's not the case that everything always has to be perfect from the outset. The main thing is that someone does something at all to set the wheels in motion." Indeed, as Dr Ina Kirchhoff emphasizes again in relation to the prospects, a lot really can be achieved if the initiatives are impaired as little as possible, and she cites an important way of thinking: "A lot of things are then simply matters of trust!" For example a football club in Attendorn has now been doing its bit for some time. At the beginning the children of the refugees used to stand at the fence and watch, wishing they could take part; now, they run around the pitch in their teams in their own jerseys, full of pride. Another example: the Olpe-Biggesee Rotary Club is providing long-term support for the Caritas association project "Gemeinsam Talente fördern" ("Encouraging talent together"). The project tries to find and arrange additional jobs and training for refugees. The fine-tuning takes place in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Siegen in order to "explore additional synergy effects and possibilities for collaboration", as they put it.

Forming groups free of conflict

But the Kirchhoffs are not naive or living in a dream world. They too see certain sources of risk. As Arndt Günter Kirchhoff points out: "We have to make sure that groups are formed that are free of conflict, of course. We have to bear in mind cultural and religious backgrounds if we want to avoid disagreement within the groups as much as possible. And smaller villages mustn't almost be inundated with refugees. That places too great a strain on both sides and creates new problems. Fortunately, as we know, generally the willingness to take on refugees in our communities is great. But, of course, that mustn't be abused. As we've seen, the only thing you get is arguments and resentment when simply too many refugees arrive all at once."


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