There was a time, in the 1970s and 1980s, when Germany was a welcome destination for many asylum seekers, because of the relative generosity of its Basic Law and the eagerness of its citizenry to demonstrate a break with the nation’s intolerant recent history. But that changed in the wake of reunification and the establishment of the Euro Zone.
Although still preferable to most other countries for its relative accessibility and economic strength, Germany has become far more hostile for refugees from the developing world. Last year a movement protesting this development gained momentum, becoming highly visible through the establishment of tent cities in a number of regions and a series of demonstrations and marches. The following text derives from a flyer explaining the protest camp the took shape in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district.
Berlin — Refugee Protest Camp at Oranienplatz, October 30th, 2012
Enough is enough. It is time for resistance!
It’s imperative to recognize that refugees don’t flee their homeland for fun. They do it for very grave reasons, such as political persecution or unacceptable social conditions, which are often life-threatening for them. In hope of a life of peace and freedom, they are exposed to great dangers and leave behind their entire existence, their families and their girlfriends and boyfriends.
We refugees have set up a protest camp on the Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg in solidarity with refugees in other German cities. Every day and night we protest against the inhuman conditions, that asylum seekers in Germany are exposed to. Racist attitudes, the continuation of colonial injustice and the exploitation of the homelands of refugees are the reasons for this treatment, made possible by political propaganda.
In solidarity with all refugees we demand the following:
1) Stop all deportations
According to the Geneva Convention, a refugee may not be expelled to a country where life or freedom are in danger. Yet through the European compartmentalization strategy and the German practice of deportation, many refugees do lose their life or their freedom. Therefore we demand an immediate stop to all deportation and the implementation of the right to asylum.
2) Elimination of the residency requirement
The residency requirement is the law that compels refugees to remain in a prescribed county and that discourages them, by means of fines and incarceration, from visiting relatives in other counties. This law is the continuation of colonial rule. It was invented by the colonial powers, in order to control and oppress peoples in occupied lands. Germany is the only (former) colonial state that now employs this law against (former) colonized peoples. The law makes manifest the isolation of refugees and hinders their liberty of movement, although in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations awards all peoples unrestricted liberty of movement.
3) Elimination of internment in camps
Refugees are compelled by German authorities to live in dilapidated camps, cut off from society and exposed to attacks from Neo-Nazis. We demand the accommodation of refugees in appropriate living spaces in the region of their choice!
We are human beings and we will no longer permit anyone to call our human needs into question. We have come together in order to change the inhumane circumstances in which we have been compelled to live up to now. We have broken out of our isolation and are organizing our lives and resistance together and in a spirit of solidarity at the protest camp on the Oranienplatz
Since March, 2012, protest tents have been erected as part of a Germany-wide refugee strike in a number of cities. This gave rise to the 600km-long protest march from Bavaria to Berlin. On October 6th, this protest march, with refugees from different protest tents, reached the capital and set up the protest camp on the Oranienplatz in the continuation of our struggle. On October 13th, over 6000 people supported us in a demonstration at the German house of parliament. On October 15th, we occupied the Nigerian embassy, which is known for its voluntary collaboration with the German authorities in following through on deportations. On October 24th, some of our fellow comrades commenced a hunger strike. On October 27th, we demonstrated with the residents of the Waßmansdorf refugee camp against their isolation and frequent attacks by Neo-Nazis. We are organizing in addition weekly actions aimed at authorities who have put racist legislation into practice.
The dates for these actions can be found on our homepage:
We will persist in our protest until all of our demands are met! We give courage to all refugees and invite you to break free of your isolation and join up with our protest.
Translated from the German by Charlie Bertsch. Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit.