Every week we hear news about the situation of refugees in Berlin. Here’s a summary of what’s been happening in the last days and how you can help. This is the English version of an article in cooperation with Mit Vergnügen, hier kannst du ihn auf Deutsch lesen.
Number of the week
738.124 | That’s how many voted against buildings on Tempelhofer Feld in a public referendum 2014. These don’t seem to count much any more when the law will be overturned next week to build a mass camp. Read more below.
How’s the situation at the registration office, LaGeSo?
After the dismissal of Franz Allert as head of LaGeSo, the new head, McKinsey consultant Sebastian Muschter, started this week. He announced to improve the situation of refugees (week-long waiting times, overdue payments and violent conflicts between refugees and security – most recently on January 14th) “as much as possible”. However, he did not present any strategies or ideas yet, although he’s been working with LaGeSo as a pro bono consultant commissioned by McKinsey since past September.
Professor Anja Lüthy, who’s been successfully supporting refugees in their struggles to conquer the office, came forward with her will to head the not yet running “Landesamt für Flüchtlingsangelegenheiten”.
More than 400 refugees took their issues with LaGeSo to the social court in the past weeks, to assert their claims on delayed allowances for housing, benefits and health insurance, reports Berliner Zeitung.
Last week, a volunteer helper at LaGeSo reportedly got barred from the compound because she helped a child to put on some pants in the tent of Vivantes, where food is handed out. This is supposedly forbidden due to hygienic reasons and security members requested the boy should be dressed outside. She wrote on Facebook that when she refused to have the boy change in the cold, she was thrown out of the tent. Tagesspiegel reports more on the background of this story, that once more shows that the situation at LaGeSo is still incredibly tense.
What’s the government of Berlin doing?
Democracy, the Berlin way: after a successful campaign and referendum against any buildings on Tempelhofer Feld in 2014, the law will now be overturned to make room for a mass camp. This change of law will pass on January 28th in Berlin’s house of representatives. The new plans are subject to massive critic, a public meeting will be held on January 21st and citizen’s initiatives are asking you to join and express your concerns.
It’s no secret that life in Berlin’s refugees shelters is hard and conditions are dire. It’s especially difficult for LGBT refugees, that most times have already been persecuted in their home countries. Berlin will now be the first state in Germany with a shelter only for LGBT refugees.
The senate finally concluded on 60 premises to build more shelters on, the full list will be published in about 2 weeks.
Local Bavarian politician Peter Dreier decided to take a little road trip together with 31 refugees to show them Germany and the capital. Oh wait, the story’s a bit different: he put them in a bus to take them to the chancellor’s office in Berlin because he thought this was a good idea to pay back Angela Merkel and her policy. The refugees reported he promised them a better life in Berlin, just before he sent them back to where they came from, while he was driving along side the bus in his car. What a glorious act.
Robert Schaddach, politician from Treptow-Köpenick, asked for a stop on immigration – he’s a member of the SPD. His party has immediately and publicly disagreed with his statement.
Any good news?
Not everything is lost with politics – the Berlin project Start with a Friend will receive a funding from the ministry of family, senior, women and youth affairs, and will expand its network to other cities. Start with a Friend is working on connecting refugees with local supporters and friends to help them conquer Germany bureaucracy and daily life.
How can you help this week?
Aid organizations are looking for guardians of the busses where people can warm themselves while waiting at LaGeSo.
Tempelhof Hilft is looking for materials and helpers for a sewing project in the airport shelter.
Miles, a center for LGBT refugees and migrants is looking for emergency, temporary and long term accommodation for LGBT-refugees.
On 31.12.2015 copyright of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” expired, which means it can be published again. There’re doubts this will contribute to education, but fuel new hate on “non-Germans”. Europa Verlag teamed up with anti-racist association “Gesicht zeigen!” and Ogilvy & Mather and published “Mein Kampf – gegen Rechts” (“My Struggle – against Right-wing politics”) – a compilation of 11 reports on the fight against right wing violence.
“Wir sind ein Volk” is a new project fighting right-wing propaganda with their own visual means – using their colors, flags and phrases to express their own agenda: “You don’t even have to be left-wing, just not crazy to realize something’s wrong.” There’ll be an exhibition an April and a book coming soon.
Information and links to initiatives in Berlin can be found on the websites of Flüchtlingsrat Berlin and at bürgeraktiv. Register at volunteer planner to start helping at shelters, many are urgently looking for help, either work in donation rooms or support during breakfast, lunch and dinner services.