Jugend

“This is our cry” – talks with refugees from the deportation camp in Deggendorf

Refugees from Sierra Leone have been on strike of 'closed doors' since 15th of December 2017, where they condemned and rejected their accommodation. The protest was followed by a hunger strike. Meanwhile, negotiations between refugees, the local authority of the administrative district and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) were conducted.

“This is our cry” – talks with refugees from the deportation camp in Deggendorf

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?“

Yes.“

Do oth­er refugees have sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences?“

Yes.“

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. 

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