Germany has become less safe due to migration. Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser admitted this when presenting the police crime statistics for 2023. On paper this is correct. On paper, there were more crimes last year. On paper, violence has also increased. On paper, foreigners are more criminal than Germans. But as it is with statistics: the pure numbers provide an illustration, but they do not explain. What has to be stated: Yes, Germany has a crime problem – like most other countries. However, to conclude from individual figures on foreigner crime that “foreigners get out and everything is fine” is absolute nonsense.

Even days before the statistics were published, there was great outrage because individual passages in newspapers were punctured. “40 percent of crimes are committed by foreigners” was the headline in some tabloid media. Aside from misrepresenting the numbers (the PKS records charges, not convictions), such headlines fuel resentment without even questioning why crimes happen. Year after year, the published data invites people to be outraged: brutalized youth, brutalized foreigners, brutalized society. The AfD is calling for more deportations, the CDU is calling for more police, the SPD and the Greens emphasize that they are taking this all very seriously. In the end, nothing usually happens – and for good reason: it is incredibly difficult, time-consuming and expensive to solve the actual problems – a decade-long project that no party dares to tackle.

In most cases, crime is a symptom of poverty, lack of social participation or inadequate integration. This is not intended to excuse, trivialize or downplay crimes. The people who commit crimes must be held accountable and punished. But always fighting the symptom instead of the actual disease has the same effect as taking painkillers for an open hernia instead of going to the hospital and having surgery.

Migrants and refugees often live in precarious conditions in Germany. And often they are not responsible for it themselves, but rather the state. Many don’t get a chance to integrate, learn the language or work. To paraphrase the rap group KIZ: “Do you think the refugees got on party boats with the big dream of dealing drugs in the park?”

When it comes to integration, Germany has stood still over the past century. We don’t manage to utilize the potential of the people who come to us because we forget that they don’t start out with the same starting points as people whose native language is German, who have lived here all their lives and who are interested in culture and society are used to. They need help – and that’s exactly what they’re not getting.

The problems of increased crime can be solved. Just not with the means that politicians like to boast about. Not with increased police presence in public places, not with stricter deportation laws or harsher penalties. But with wages that are enough to live on, with social work, street workers, all-day programs in schools or youth clubs, an expansion of language courses and educational support. There is no applause for this, but this is the only way to prevent people from getting onto the wrong track in the first place.