Dispatches from the O-platz Eviction

Dispatches from the O-platz Eviction

Kieran Aarons and Lulu

The following interviews were conducted on April 18 and 19, 2014, ten days after the eviction of the squatted refugee encampment at Oranienplatz (O-platz) in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin.

The camp was set up in 2012 by a group of asylum seekers, mostly travelling from Lampedusa, Italy. O-platz was home to more than 200 refugees until officials made a deal with some refugees to destroy the camp and move refugees to another location. Many refugees did not accept the deal and organized other occupations and a hunger strike. As we go to press, under threat of police eviction 40 refugees have barricaded themselves inside a squatted school in Kreuzberg, armed themselves with molotovs, and threatened mass suicide by burning down the building if the police enter by force. For updates, go to

Turgay and Patras, refugees from Turkey and Uganda, were on hunger strike at the time of the interview. They were occupying the plaza immediately opposite the former site of the encampment. It was fenced off and ringed by police. Yvon and Jannick, refugees from Benin and Cameroon, live in “Lagers” (state residence centers for asylum seekers) on the outskirts of Berlin. Turgay spoke Turkish and was translated by a supporter at the camp. Yvon and Jannick spoke French and were translated by Upping the Anti. The interviews offer a brief history of the refugee movement in Germany. They provide an account of the recent events surrounding the eviction of O-Platz and reveal the oppressive conditions of daily life faced by asylum seekers in Germany.

Many thanks to Judith Muster who donated her time to translate the French interviews.

Turgay & Patras

How did the occupation of O-platz come about? Can you give us a brief history of the Refugee Strike movement and the march to Berlin?

Turgay: After the suicide of a refugee who was living in a Lager in Würzburg, we decided to come together as refugees in struggle. We organized a protest march from Würzburg, the city where his Lager was, to Berlin. It was a protest march of about 600 km.

As we marched to Berlin, we called on refugees to break their isolation in the refugee centres and join our march. The O-platz camp is located in the capital of Germany, in Berlin. It reveals the situation of, and the practices against, refugees here in Germany. Before O-platz, German society had little information about the racist and colonial laws attacking refugees here, which isolate and imprison refugees in Lagers. Also, they didn’t know anything about the Gutschein system, whereby refugees get some coupons for supermarket food. The Gutschein system can be very humiliating.

The protest march also defined three demands, which our movement maintains to this day. The first demand is to stop Residenzpflicht, 1 a law that confines refugees to within 30 km of their assigned refugee centres. You cannot exit this 30 km zone. By marching, we broke this Residenzpflicht law. The second demand is to stop deportation; that’s clear. The third demand is to close all refugee centres, which are isolating refugees.

The protest march experienced a lot of police violence. Perhaps the German citizens and the public who observed the violence realized that Germany is not such a democratic country. The protest march also came under attack from Nazis as it passed through areas with a high level of Nazi organization.

Through the protest march’s civil disobedience against the refugee centre, many refugees broke from isolation and became politicized.They realized that through civil disobedience their situation can change.

When it comes to refugee or migrant activism, has there been a tension between making demands of the state and the need for self-organization or horizontality?

Turgay: Our movement is a self-organized and self-determined refugee movement. This movement lives through the histories of the refugees and of those who are breaking the isolation in the asylum-seeker’s residences. We are saying “We don’t accept the laws that blockade us, that attack us and our humanity.”

Of course, the state did not recognize that model; but, when we started this march to Berlin, we clearly said to state authorities, “We have no leaders, we have no spokesmen, we are self-organized, and everyone who is joining us and our movement can speak for themselves.” Any time the police approached our march, they asked, “Who is your ‘leader’?” And we said, “We have no ‘leader’. You have to talk to everyone.”

The German state became very annoyed by our movement. When we organize actions or try to demonstrate, the state authorities try to weaken our energy and co-opt our self-expression.

Our strategy of self-determination was not easy for us to exercise because it required ignoring the laws. Also, most of the refugees didn’t know about the laws around demonstrations and weren’t familar with German bureaucracy. However, through the power of our refugee march, we basically said to the state, “We don’t accept your laws, you have to change these laws, this is why we have our demands. But if you don’t change them, we will break them with civil disobedience.” This determination greatly annoys the German state; it is the determination of those who are affected by racist and colonial laws.

How have disagreements been dealt with between refugees who want to accept the state’s terms (and abandon the camp) and refugees who don’t want to leave?

Turgay: The delegation group consisted of eight refugee activists who were elected by the people who live on O-platz. The problem began when the Berlin senate was offering the so-called Lampedusa refugees a six month stay. We call this Duldung: the status of being tolerated. Duldung is not a right to stay – it’s being tolerated in German territory.

The other part of the delegation thought the Duldung proposal was stupid. Duldung means that after six months has passed, a refugee will be deported according to Dublin III Law. 2 Dublin III Law requires that the European country where a refugee first asks for asylum deals with the case. For Lampedusa refugees, that country was Italy.

So, part of the delegation did not accept the state senate’s offer. They realized that the senate in fact doesn’t want to propose a solution. The negotiation is just a veiled project of deporting people and evicting the protest camp at O-platz.

This is why our half of the refugee delegation refused the agreement. But the other half agreed to it. On the day of the eviction, the other half came equipped with knives and sticks, determined to destroy all the housing and tents in the camp. They had received money to pull down our tents. We tried to resist, but they pushed us aside with all the tools they had in their hands, so it was a forceful eviction. And that is why we are now doing this hunger strike, to protest against this injustice.

What money? Where did the other half of the O-platz refugees get money from? How much did they get?

Turgay: The senate said to those people who accepted this Duldung agreement, “If you want to start this procedure, if you want us to examine all of your individual asylum cases, first you have to evacuate O-platz yourselves.” As an incentive, the senate gave them 100 Euros per person. They gave money to all the people who left O-platz, with this condition: “First you evacuate the whole place, and then we’ll start to examine your cases.” This was the kind of pressure that they put on the people in order to get them to destroy everything with their own hands.

So you can see at the micro-level the state’s colonial strategy of divide and rule at O-platz. This same systematic approach functions in any African country or any other world region that is being colonialized by European powers.

You’ve described how the refugees were divided. Have the non-refugee support groups also divided into those who are in favour of the Duldung agreement and those who are not?

Turgay: Those who voluntarily left O-platz clearly had the senate and the government parties behind them, but we who stayed here have independent supporters behind us.

We talked a bit about how the state was able to manipulate these divisions between the groups within the camp. You also squatted at a school during December of 2012 in Ohlauerstrasse. Have similar problems arisen around that squat? What’s the situation there like?

Turgay: The occupation of the school is portrayed to the general public in ways similar to O-platz: the politicians are saying that all of our supporters are left extremists seeking to radicalize the refugees. The tone of this statement belies the states annoyance and self-defense. The more the refugees understand how the state functions, the more they become politicized, express their own situation, and can decode the state strategies. This claim about radicals instrumentalizing refugees is therefore an attempt to divide our organizational structures. Because in fact it’s the state and political authorities who are instrumentalizing the refugee issue.

Based upon your experience of how the state has attempted to repress this movement, what sorts of lessons do you think can be drawn for refugees who wish to struggle, in Germany or elsewhere?

Turgay: Before O-platz, the state was always saying, “Anyone who’s entering this state illegally or as a refugee is a criminal.” That was one of their strategies.

What we have learned is that as long as we are not breaking our isolation and struggling cohesively, we can’t overcome our fear of the authorities, or recognize what belongs to us, namely our rights.

Due to our self-organized way of living together, we have learned how we can solve our own problems and create what we need. We learned, too, that the system doesn’t want to change these problems. They want to keep our problems invisible, and they want to destroy all the places where there is protest. They want to keep the fact of refugee isolation a secret.

Do you think the refugee movement will continue with the same tactics, such as the occupation of public spaces and the use of hunger strikes, or is a discussion of new tactics developing?

Turgay: The hunger strike is not the only method – we are trying any method we can think of. And we are pushing our struggle Europe-wide. This is why we are now organizing a protest march from Strasbourg to Brussels against the European Union Parliament elections and the European summit meeting in June.

We have used many tactics over two years of struggle. We started in local contexts, and when we saw that local struggle is not enough, we tried to find each other and make this a German-wide struggle. We occupied embassies, streets, places, parliaments, and the offices of political parties. The hunger strike is our tool of last resort. As we saw our symbolic space of resistance destroyed with such violence, we used this hunger strike as a last strategic response to the violence used to evict us.

Patras: Our centre of resistance was destroyed on April 8, 2014 after the senate discovered that it would be easy to use our fellow friends within the camp to destroy it. The senate bought them with money, social welfare money, resident permits, and other empty promises – that’s why they evicted the camp. Those who left came mainly from Lampedusa – they didn’t really understand the asylum-seeker’s residence system here and the bureaucratic system in Germany more broadly.

At first they took away the info tent on Monday afternoon. Then, at 6 am the following morning our fellow refugees, who had accepted the Duldung agreement, used knives, hammers, and all possible tools to tear down the tents.

That’s why we decided to go on hunger strike, to demonstrate against this terror, which the senate, in collaboration with our friends, has exacted upon our center of resistance. During the eviction, around five of our friends climbed up into a tree and spent all of Tuesday up there without food or supplies. Again we declared our occupation and remained outside throughout the night. Our camp has been taken, but we are not going anywhere. We will stay here, outside, until the senate gives it back. And so we spent the entire night outside. We tried asking the police and the senate to give our friends food, but they refused. The following day was the same. On Wednesday afternoon, they said that those in the tree have no right to anything: water, food, warm clothes, medical care ... nothing. It was too much for us, so in the evening, Turgay and I were here, and we said, “Now what? We want immediate action now.” We decided to go on hunger strike.

How many of you are on hunger strike now?

Patras: We were five, but one of our friends is having some complications with his stomach, and so at present we are four. When we first announced the hunger strike, it was in solidarity with our people who were denied access to water, food, and warm clothes. We are demanding that the police or the Berlin senate give them their rights to all these things.

We agreed on three demands, after consultation with our people who were in the tree. The first was to bring back the info-tent and the circus tent to use for political gatherings and information. The second was that the refugee-occupied school at Ohlauerstrase, which we took over in December of 2012, should be legalized as an autonomous political, social, and economic refugee centre. Our last and most important demand is the acceptance of all refugees and asylum seekers here in Germany, including those protesting at O-platz.

Since we started the protest and came to O-platz, we refused to go back to the asyulm seeker’s residences. As Turgay told you, the situation there is catastrophic and inhuman, so we haven’t been back since we came here in October 2012. We have boycotted everything: the food, sleeping in these houses, the money. All the things, they use to make refugees feel that everything is ok; however, it means nothing because they will still deport us. That’s why we are saying, “No. We can’t rely on this while our lives are being affected.” And we have refused the Duldung, as well. We are human beings; we deserve equal rights, so there is no need for the German government to impose these brutal laws on us. It’s not just about the conditions in the residences – our freedom of movement has been totally violated: we are not allowed to move from these allocated places. If you try, you are given a Straffe, a fine you have to pay. It is almost 40 Euros, and we are not working. In the residences, we can only work four-hour shifts, and are paid one Euro per hour.

Would you say that you are political rather than economic refugees? Or is the distinction not so important for you?

Patras: It is not wise to separate economic issues from political or social issues. The three go hand-in-hand.

If you look into this problem, it has been institutionalized by these so-called Western superpower countries, especially against the African continent. Politically, we are facing serious partitions as a result of Africa’s colonial era. What is taking place is a new colonialism, a new scramble for Africa. So that’s why we say, “No. Right now we want immediate solutions. We are here, we’re going to stay here until you, the Berlin government, or the senate, or the German government, accept all of us protesting at O-platz.” We are human beings, we want solutions for our lives. We don’t want these hostels, where they have taken these people who know nothing of how the system here works.

Yvon & Jannick

Can you give a glimpse into the life of a refugee in Germany?

Jannick: I was at Hennigsdorf, 3 since November 2013. Hennigsdorf enforces a racist system through the use of what they call Gutschein. The Gutschein is a highly bureaucratic food stamp program, which verifies your identity based on your signature. If there are any problems with the signatures being identical, the food stores do not accept the card. I find Gutschein racist because, from the moment you arrive at the store, everyone looks at you strangely. And then you have to spend five minutes signing for the food. You feel flustered as people behind you are impatient. For such a simple act of buying food, this impatience impacts you. Everyone knows you are a refugee.

Also, with this card, you can only buy food. You cannot buy a transit card or other necessities. The Gutschein is part of a systemic process to keep you confined in the asylum-seeker’s residence and discourages you from leaving. But this is stressful because there is nothing at the residence. There is no television, there is no radio, there is no internet. You are forbidden to even play a radio in your room. This system causes a great deal of distress for refugees.

Germany has two faces: one where it appears to be welcoming to refugees, but another where it also punishes refugees. It has been around five months since I became involved in political issues, during which time I have been trying to understand the German refugee policies. When I first came here, I believed that Germany was one of the best countries for refugees, with a good system of treatment. But I have since realized that it is precisely the opposite.

There is one political group called Corasol, 4 who are against racism and practice solidarity. They come from Berlin to Hennigsdorf every Friday, and they help us with paying the Gutschein. We all go to a certain grocery store together, they buy goods for themselves, we pay for it with our Gutschein and they give us the equivalent in cash. But the local people from Hennigsdorf don’t like this exchange; they push and shove you. It’s really a manifestation of pure racism.

In Berlin there is intense and routine racial profiling. You are kept under tight control. There is a system that monitors all of your movements as a refugee. There is no free movement; whenever you arrive at Hennigsdorf, you have to show your ID at the entrance. If you are a visitor, they register you and give you a pass.

So you have to go through a verification system when you are buying necessities, when you arrive at home, when you receive vistors - there a verification system for all aspects of life. How does this impact you?

Jannick: Yes, there is a verification system for all aspects of life. For example, we have no keys to our home. When you get to the door, there is a security guard who has to buzz you in so you can enter. This system essentially puts us in a position of guilt, as if we are criminals. There are rules that prevent free travel or even access to services you can receive in other places. In other asylum-seeker’s residences, you can get a social transit card, which is a discounted transit card. I went to Oranienburg to ask for a transit card because you cannot get to the residence and stay there every day. When I requested a social transit card instead of a regular travel card, they refused and told me I had no right to leave Hennigsdorf. They told me I was not allowed to leave my enclosure, to leave my residence!

To navigate these services, even access to language training is suppressed. For example, I have been at Hennigsdorf since November. They test us initially, to assess what level of German school we should begin with. But it’s now five months later and we are going to start the course in July. We have to wait seven months before even learning to say “hello” in German. For me, that makes life impossible. When you come to a new country, you have to learn the language of the country, no matter what the country.

Can you explain the deportation policy around the Dublin III Law?

Jannick: There is the law of Dublin II and the law of Dublin III, which was created to prevent asylum shopping and mandate the first country you arrive in as the country in which to seek asylum. As Germany is in the centre of Europe, refugees have to enter via Spain or another country. However, when you arrive in another country, the government takes your fingerprints for a shared database. It is the same process if you travel to any country in the EU. If you reach Germany, and they take your fingerprints, that is when the Dublin Law hits you, because you’re supposed to receive asylum from the first country you arrived in, even if you wanted to settle in Germany all along.

If you are found seeking asylum in a different country from your arrival point, they notify you and explain the asylum process. They tell you that you have until a certain date to leave Germany. If you remain past the date, you become illegal and wanted by the police. Generally, the night before you have to leave, the police come to get you in the middle of the night. They come at one or two in the morning. I’ve known people who jump out the window if you are not too high up. This is a frequent and very inhumane experience for refugees in Germany.

Can you speak more about the circumstances of refugees coming into Europe, and how that works?

Jannick: Here in Eisenhüttenstadt, 5 which has a large deportation prison, there is a girl from Chechnya, who came by way of Poland two months ago. She first asked for asylum in Poland, but there, she was abused by her own community and the family of her husband. So she fled to Germany and asked for asylum. When she arrived at the border of Germany they stopped her and brought her to Eisenhüttenstadt – which is also the main deportation prison. She was immediately sent there to be deported back to Poland – back to an abusive situation.

What are the deportation prisons like? Are they different from the asylum-seeker’s residences, or are they similar to a refugee house?

Jannick: At the deportation prison, you cannot have visitors and you do not have the right to leave. You can only see visitors through glass. That Chechynian woman I spoke of, she tried to commit suicide on the day of her deportation. But that did not stop them. The next day, she was deported. This is the inhumanity of the deportation system. I think that every human being should have the right to go where they want when they want. I find it unjust that a human being should be deported against their will. There are many stories of refugees trying to commit suicide to prevent deportation.

The system and process of deportation is the main struggle happening in different places. First, there is this huge deportation prison. I’m part of a group that helps people in this prison. We visit them once a week; we help them find lawyers to look at their cases. Even though it often does not work, we give them some support. But in the last few weeks, they have instituted a law that stops us from visiting very often. They created a rule where the prisoner has to be able to give the name of their future visitor before the visitor can come visit. But how would they know this name or time in advance of anyone who wants to visit them? This is a tool to limit the number of visits they receive and to limit our work. We are currently in the process of fighting this law, as well as to have the deportation prison closed, because it is inhumane. Germany is actually home to two of the largest deportation prisons in Europe, with the largest in Büren and the second largest prison in Eisenhüttenstadt.

Can you talk about the phenomenon of suicide in the asylum-seeker residences?

Jannick: There are two issues with requesting asylum in Germany: either you get deported or you become so distressed by the process that you want to kill yourself. Germany is the country, according to a 2008 UN study, where refugee suicide are most common.
Suicide is often the only option for people who cannot leave. The German policy gives asylum seekers two options: either they deport the refugee to a country they know they will not be able to leave, or pressure them to the point where they kill themselves. That’s it. You rarely see someone who asks for asylum and receives it.

When they have you come in to do an interview, and you present evidence and proof, they then start to follow and harass you. They have the means to do it. They follow you, they persecute you, they cause you so much stress.

It seems to me that the law around refugees cannot just be attributed to Germany alone, since it is an international statute, defined by the UN, UNICEF, and all the organizations that defend human rights. Being a refugee in Germany is like being a sous-homme, or a beggar.

Some see the law of Dublin III as as way for Germany to extend its borders across Europe, allowing it to use the borders of other countries as if they were its own. Does that ring true for you?

Jannick: Indeed. That is why we are also organizing against German subsidies to border protection efforts. Around two months ago, one group organized an event in front of a factory producing barbed wire that they use at the border to keep refugees out. More than other European states, Germany subsidizes these factories.

How is the occupation of O-platz linked to the struggle at Hennigsdorf? Are the people protesting at O-platz the same as those who live in the residence?

Jannick: The situation at O-platz tarnished Germany’s image when it comes to the handling of refugees. The whole world heard about it. The people who wound up in O-platz hadn’t even sought asylum in Germany. If they had asked for asylum in Germany, the Dublin III law would immediately be applied, and they wouldn’t have been able to enter. But since they didn’t formally request asylum, the Dublin law doesn’t apply to them. So they stayed. You had a mass of refugees who had mostly left Italy for Germany and had lived here for some time.

The people at O-platz were surviving on their own with no social services – they built their own tents and had no financial support. Rather than respond with social services or support, Germany responded with violence. Violence is not the answer to a humanitarian problem.

This issue extends across Europe. And we need to understand this situation in a historical context. When Europe went to Africa and depleted its resources, the Europeans didn’t need visas. They didn’t need to show any papers. They had free reign and exploited our resources to build their Europe. And they continue to do it. But this exploitation of resources is at the heart of why people are leaving Africa.

This history upsets me ­– it’s disheartening. Because today all these European countries practice this exploitation, and they act out of a false conscience – because they want to keep us forever at the bottom of the ladder. And if we have become awakened to this reality, when we want to call this political system into question, the system that they have imposed in our countries that kill our youth, when we revolt, either the state tries to kill you, or you flee. And should you demand asylum in Europe, you are treated like a criminal.

This for me is the fundamental problem: Why today are so many of us immigrating to Europe? Why? If Africa had not experienced colonialism, and we were able to keep and use all of our resources, with good leaders, I don’t think that Africans would head to Europe.

One needs first to look at the cause of the great increase in the number of refugees. Suppose you meet a 17-year-old youth, who has left his home and given up everything – his studies and family – to cross the borders of Nigeria, Mali, Algeria and into Morocco for the hope of reaching Spain. If he tries to cross into Morocco, he may be arrested or beaten up. He may even die. But if he does make it, he will only be one of many refugees that live in poverty. Why would a youth choose this rather than stay in his own country? Everyone loves their country, regardless of the situation. Even if your country is at war, even if your country is poor, you love your country. So today we have to ask ourselves the question, why are more and more youth leaving their country?

But for Germany I ask, how can a person live without the right to work, without the freedom to go where they want, without the right to study, the right to entertainment, without the right to happiness, to grow as a person? What is this life? It’s not a life – it’s exile. You can’t build a life without these elements. And the most fundamental issue is that we are deprived of these rights.

What forms of resistance did you see at O-platz?

Jannick: One successful action that I feel may have led to the demolition of O-platz was the student strike that was organized by students around O-platz. In February 2014, the students organized a strike in defense of the rights of refugees. I was at that demo and I was really impressed. There were so many people there. These students were in high school! I realized that the refugee issue was taking on such a dimension that 15 or 16 year old students were taking part. If they, at their young age, understand the mistreatment of refugees, it means the problem is serious.

The refugee struggle is becoming a national issue. It’s rare in many countries that you see students become involved in an issue like this and build a connection with refugees. But the students are aware of what’s going on, and that’s because the problem has taken on a certain scope. And maybe if the movement grows, we’ll gain ground. I know the German state has problems when German citizens go on strike or start demonstrating. If more follow these actions, maybe we’ll see results. If the student strike and the student movement for refugees in Germany grows, maybe they will pay attention.

We are building this struggle with a group called Education Without Limitation, which wants to give refugees the right to be educated and continue their studies. There are people who came here not because they were fleeing their country, but because their country didn’t give them the opportunity to attain the education level they wanted.

A lot of the resistance has thus far been locally based. But there has been a move to bring the struggle to an international level. Can you speak about that?

Jannick: Yes, there is a group called Stop Deportation that works across borders. We have people working in France: for people expelled from Germany to France or Poland, this French group will collaborate with us to support those deportees. Before someone is deported, we put them in touch with the group, so they can find shelter and food.

There is also a group that exists in Italy called Lampedusa. As time passes, the struggle to defend the rights and liberties of refugees grows because European states are tightening their laws when it comes to refugee status. That’s why in Germany we’re organizing the March to Brussels of May 17. It proves that this refugee rights movement is not only national, it’s international. It’s taking on a different character. It’s not only in Germany that refugees are mistreated.

What was the relationship between the people living in O-platz and surrounding neighbourhoods? There were incidents of attacks – but were there also feelings of solidarity?

Yvon: From the beginning, there was no solidarity with local residents. The local residents simply did not want O-platz to exist. There were attacks all the time. That’s why we always had to get people to guard the entrances during night shifts while people slept. However, over time, this animosity subsided, and there were no more attacks. The residents probably saw that we would not be discouraged, and we were doing all we could to stay. Also, day after day, more refugees arrived.

What sort of group tensions contributed to the destruction of O-platz?

Yvon: I think that the demolition of O-platz was caused by the disagreement amongst different groups of refugees within the camp. There were disagreements around leadership – who was responsible for O-platz – and disagreements about who was to take on that responsibility. If all the occupiers and supporters had truly been united, I think O-platz would not have been demolished. We had many supporters, but not all shared the same ideas. The demolition of O-platz was a real failure for our political movement. The government exploited our lack of unity, and they succeeded. I found it painful, very painful.

What are some lessons you’ve drawn from this struggle?

Yvon: The main lesson, for me, is if a refugee really wants to create a movement, they can’t do it by looking to defend their own interests. You need to work to defend the interests of all refugees. Had I only been defending my own rights, I would have left the struggle long ago. And the movement is never finished. I know some Africans who have been political since 1997. So it’s a struggle that is never over. And we will continue to struggle so that future generations understand the problem. So, I offer courage to all those refugees who are willing to work in this movement long-term.

The struggle for refugees is one of reclaiming rights. If you don’t have the privilege of being told what your human rights are, you won’t be able to exercise them. So what we’re doing is only natural. All the demos that are being organized are a natural result of the situation – refugees in Germany and across the whole of Europe are treated as criminals. But in Germany, it is the worst. For example, I’m not allowed to come to Berlin, even though I’m an asylum-seeker in Germany. I never sought asylum in any country other than Germany. If I really wanted to respect the law, I’d be in the Lager, and when you’re there everything you do is restricted. Here I am told, “you can’t go to Brandenburg, you can’t go to Berlin.” It bothers me, but it doesn’t discourage me. I can never be discouraged because we will fight until we reach our goal.

The laws regarding refugees are truly criminal. When police stop me and call me criminal, I tell them, “it is not me who has committed a crime, it is you who are a criminal. You and your laws are criminal.” I’m not afraid to speak out. Because if I am discouraged, that means I’ve betrayed my politics. And until they make us legal and repeal the laws concerning refugees in all of Germany and the European Union, refugees will always fight for their rights and organize demonstrations. They must think about how they treat refugees because refugees remain, of course, human beings. And all human beings deserve rights.H


  1. Residenzpflicht (mandatory residence) is a legal requirement affecting applicants for refugee status or those who have been given a temporary stay of deportation (what the interviewers refer to as “Duldung”). Those affected are required to live within certain boundaries defined by the applicants’ local foreigners’ office. Foreigners who contravene this legislation can be imprisoned or face fines. The Residenzpflicht is unique to Germany. A 2007 complaint to the European Court of Human Rights regarding Residenzpflicht was dismissed. ↩︎
  2. For more info see: ↩︎
  3. Hennigsdorf is a town 25 km northwest of Berlin. ] in an asylum-seeker’s residence[[The official German term is Flüchtlingsheim, (“refugee home”). The refugee movement refers to these facilities as “Lager”, which invokes the historical use of the term Konzentrationslager or (“concentration camp”). ↩︎
  4. For more info see: ↩︎
  5. Eisenhüttenstadt is a town located 120 km east of Berlin, near the border with Poland. ↩︎