After the mass brawls in the Ruhr area between Syrians and Lebanese, scientists warn against taking clan structures as an overly simple explanation. “This term stigmatizes and does not explain the conflict. It is a construct that does not exist in the legal text,” said sociologist Salah El-Kahil from the University of Duisburg-Essen. The vast majority of family members are not members of criminal structures.

In Castrop-Rauxel, after a private Syrian-Lebanese family dispute, which escalated through calls and apparently false information on social media, two large groups from both nations attacked each other with roof battens, baseball bats and knives, among other things, more than a week ago. Seven injured people are known to have been treated in six different hospitals.

“Not just organized crime in the back room”

A day later there was a march by numerous Lebanese through the city center in Essen – and another fight with Syrians. According to the police, four officers were injured by pepper spray during the police operation. “Tumults and clashes like that of last weekend must not take place anywhere in Essen,” said Essen Mayor Thomas Kufen (CDU). The personal details of more than 100 people were found. The police are also evaluating numerous videos.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) had seen references to clan crime. “The crime that is committed from family structures does not always take place as organized crime in the back room,” Reul said at a special meeting of the interior committee in the North Rhine-Westphalia state parliament. According to Reul, spontaneous outbreaks of violence on the street are also part of the clan crime phenomenon.

Expert: historical tension potential

The Berlin Islam scholar Ahmad A. Omeirate said that since the Syrian military intervention in the Lebanese civil war and the decades-long occupation of the country, there has actually been considerable historical potential for tension between the two peoples. Another special situation in Essen is the sharp increase in the number of Syrian refugees – mostly with recognized asylum status – which has made the Lebanese, who have been in the city for a long time, felt pressured.

“It’s a powder keg, it can explode at any time.” However, only a few members of the two communities are willing to use violence. Omeirate emphasized that the clear majority distanced themselves from the events.

El-Kahil said that explaining the violence through alleged large-scale patriarchal structures with a uniform criminal aim and a widespread rejection of the state does not go far enough. “There isn’t enough research evidence for that.”

Sociologist bemoans misleading statistics

Since police checks in North Rhine-Westphalia are used to search for alleged clan members on the basis of their surnames for the creation of the “Clan crime situation picture”, minor everyday violations appeared in the statistics as alleged clan crimes, complained the sociologist, who compiled the crime statistics of various federal states and of the federal government has compared.

An extremely complicated and non-transparent right of residence makes it difficult for refugees and immigrants to start in Germany, said Duisburg migration researcher Thorsten Schlee. It was particularly difficult for foreigners who had been rejected and, in some cases, only tolerated in Germany for generations, many of whom included Lebanese. The reasons for toleration alone included 20 different legal variants.

“The result is a strong push towards precarious employment far below the actual qualification.” This not only wastes economic potential, but also generates rejection of the local social conditions – especially since most of those affected will not be able to get out of the need for help to make a living permanently, sometimes for life.

“Give a hand to those who want to integrate”

A radical simplification of the right of residence with significantly fewer inspection requirements, easier access to the labor market and more educational opportunities could help here, demanded Schlee. “It’s incomprehensible from a criminological and police perspective – it only exacerbates the social divide.”

The city of Essen refers to its model project under the motto “Offer opportunities – set limits”, which is aimed at young people with a toleration status. The residence status can be improved via the program if special integration achievements are shown. “Integration can only succeed if both sides approach each other,” emphasized the Mayor of Essen. “We reach out to those who want to integrate and call the police and regulatory authorities to account for those who do injustice.”