Last year a record 1.1 million people sought asylum in Germany – and while politicians have been busy arguing over how best to deal with the influx of migrants, others have been making money out of it.
Raphael Hock is one of life’s optimists.
He has reason to be. At 22, he is fit, highly qualified, bilingual, drives a smart car, is fresh back from a skiing holiday in the Alps and is heir to a multi-million euro family business.
Hock is driving me past whitewashed mansions among the birch trees of Gruenwald, on the southern outskirts of Munich. We’re in the most prosperous part of one of the most prosperous cities on Earth. These houses – with their pools and barbecue decks – belong to bosses of famous manufacturing firms and to football players of Bayern Munich.
But even this neighbourhood has had to bunk up a little to accommodate some of the hundreds of thousands of penniless migrants who have just arrived.
We’ve just visited a so-called care dome, one of 15 around the city owned by Hock’s company and leased to the local government. It’s an inflatable hall, the size of an Olympic swimming pool, housing 300 men from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and West Africa who crossed much of the Middle East and southern Europe to get here. They stay, for free, in warm bunk rooms, eat three meals a day, play table tennis, get pocket money and wait for news of their asylum claims.
Hock, as you’ll have gathered, is no charity worker. Along with many entrepreneurs like him, he’s part of what the German papers are calling the “refugee industry”. He used to provide accommodation for sports clubs but he diversified in a hurry and it’s paying. He predicts a 37m euro annual turnover for his company within two years.
And like him, the German government is opportunist. It could be said to have seen a gap in the market and decided to fill it.