Public discussions were mostly dominated by right-wing propagandists. The AfD as well as the CSU tried to reduce the protest to supposed ungratefulness of refugees and recently right-wing terrorists of the neo-Nazi ‚III. Weg‘ Party tried to exploit the topic for their racist politics. What do refugees from Deggendorf have to say? We talked to them.
Why was there a strike?
Unlike the way a majority of the media have presented the issue, bad living conditions have not been the primary reasons for the strike. Above all, the shortening of the camp stay of 24 months right now was the main aim of the refugees. Kids, pregnant women and people with diseases, in particular, suffer from these depressing living conditions. Another reason was the generalized denial of applications for asylum by the BAMF and the delivery of insufficient identification papers to find work or leave the deportation camp. Instead, refugees from Sierra Leone are in constant fear of being deported to Italy. Due to the Dublin Regulation within the European Union, the EU member state where refugees first arrived and where they were registered has to examine an application for asylum seekers, which is – in the case of refugees from Sierra Leone – mostly Italy. In Italy, deported Sierra Leonian refugees are threatened by homelessness and further marginalization. In most cases refugees are not getting any information about their status or fate during their 24–month stay. One refugee told us:
„We are staying in the camp for two years then we will know if they accept you or not and then maybe deport you to Italy. And police started to come for people in the camp. So this is what led to the protest actually.“
The man added that he has contact to Sierra Leonian refugees that were deported and are now living on the streets in Italy. Even pregnant women, kids and sick people were allegedly deported.
„People are suffering in Italy, so when they catch you here and deport you to Italy, it is nothing else than going to lose your life.“
Refugees showed us pictures of alleged assaults by the police.
The refugees put emphasis on the reasons why they fled Sierra Leone. We heard several cases of female genital mutilation which was forcefully conducted in Sierra Leone. Although these women got medical certificates for their cases, the BAMF rejected their asylum applications. Also corrupt politicians as well as international land grabbing because of resource exploitation, especially diamonds, limit the liveability of Sierra Leonian refugees.
The living conditions in the deportation camp are bad
Up to 50 persons are supposed to share a bathroom, there are cases of viral infects with hepatitis B and almost no chances for German classes. Unlike contrasting claims of rightists and AfD-folks. the conditions in the camp are indeed bad. Two buildings form a complex in an industrial area near the central train station in Deggendorf. An old building, surrounded by massive fences, was first used as an initial reception. It is now he deportation camp in which up to eight persons have to share a 15 m² big room. A former warehouse next door, that was renovated, is now used as the new center for initial reception of asylum seekers. Herein, approximately 30 m² big dormitories were installed for four people.
Refugees told us about their fear of getting sick. The hygienical requirements are not met – they are miserable. Infections with the hepatitis-B-virus is one of the main concerns. Although there is a high chance of full recovery, chronic symptoms can still develop. One refugee reported he got a positive diagnosis for the hepatitis-B-virus from a doctor. Yet, no treatment is in sight.
„They made a test with me and said I have hepatits B. And there is no medication for me because the government will not pay money for that now. That’s why at night I feel the symptoms. So I asked what is my treatment now? They said the government needs to pay for that before my treatment. […] That’s always what they told me. I have the paper, the medical results that I have hepatits B and they don’t give me treatment.“
We were told about wishes and desires for a peaceful life for the refugees and their kids without any uncertainties. However, German classes as an initial step for a self-determined life in Germany are only granted for children and teenagers between six and twenty years. Contrary to what refugees claimed what their age was, their age was registered above the actual one in some issues. Access to classes was therefore not possible.
„They gave me 21 years of age. I said I am not 21 but they gave me the age. So now I am sitting here without having school. And you have to know the language.“
„So you have less chances of getting courses?“
„Do other refugees have similar experiences?“
The protest of the refugees is important to solve their critical living conditions. Otherwise the situation in the camp is fatal.
Racists are provoking
A demonstration with approximately 150 people was organized to raise awareness for the refugees‘ situation among the population of Deggendorf after the strike had begun. There were no incidents on the side of the demonstration. Nevertheless, fascists from the ‚III. Weg‘ party alongside a politician of the AfD party took advantage of the situation by filming the protesters via a Facebook live stream. The demonstrators were harassed and insulted by the rightists. We were also told that participants of the demonstration were thrown at with ice and snow by the neo-Nazis – even in front of the police.
„The only thing was that we were booed at by some racist people. They were throwing ice on us. Some were treating us this racist way in front of the police but we try at least to talk to our colleagues so that they will understand our demands. There was no violence anyway. We maintained peace and respected the police.“
Racists and rightists were provoking and trying to delegitimise the protest.
It is important to show solidarity: refugees can’t change that they are humans but together we can change the inhuman conditions. On the 23rd of December a spontaneous demonstration with 100 supporters headed through the city center to the camp where it ended in a party together with refugees. People danced together and shouted our common slogan: no more deportations, without exception!
Click here for German version.