Today at around 16h I received a call. Someone had notified Lager Mobilisation Group, that 122 people living in the Lager (a camp) at Bornitzstr 102 (Lichtenberg – Berlin) were going to be evicted from this Lager and transfer to another Lager at Köpenicker Allee 164. No reasons were argued, they would be just thrown out.
The day was Grey, rainy, unpleasant, cold. I live close by and I had a couple of hours, I prepared my phone, took an extra-charger, checked my Internet speed connection and then went to check what was going on.
As I was arriving at the lager, I saw a couple of police vans and a bus with the doors open, as waiting for people to get in.
The contact was a Syrian refugee, once I was at the door I called him. He came with a couple of friends, almost without introducing ourselves, they started telling me what was happening. There was unrest in their words, they talked almost non-stop, their faces were worried. It took me some minutes to react and try to put some order in my thoughts of what to do. My only thought, what can I do, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not in any making-decision position, so I can only try one thing to make the situation visible. So I took my note book, a pencil and my phone.
Everything started yesterday (05.10.2016) , 122 people were told to pack their things, since they would be transfered to a much better lager. They assured them that if they didn’t like it they could come back. The information given was almost none, the reasons of the transfer, unknown. On one side they were told that they could close part of the building and that then they were starting moving part of them. This contradicts the fact that today, 3 new families arrived to the Lager. The refugees asked for a paper that explained, that proof that it was an official decision and not an arbitrary decision made by the company running the lager, PeWoBe. An aside before continuing, PeWoBe had several times appeared in the press because of the denigrating behaviour they had towards refugees in the lagers. This coincides with what our friend also was telling us, about how the social workers that were good people and cared for them and helped them were fired, 2 had been fired in the last months, and there are rumors that the one left has been also fired, although he could not confirm it.
They continued telling me, that a couple of them had gone to check this new, fantastic new lager, where they were going to be transfered, to check if really it was that nice. The visit was terrifying, the lager at Köpenicker Allee 164, was crowded, more than 800 people are already living there, the toilets are outside the building, which means to freeze in winter, literally they told me, “It was shit!”. So once this small group returned, they decided that they would resist and they would not leave on the buses. Among the 122 people are mainly single men and women, although a couple of families will also be evicted and a pregnant woman with her child. All nationalities are mixed, they are from Syria, Iran, Albania, Afghanistan, Pakistan and some Africans. “We are numbers, for them we are just numbers”, that’s how they described the situation, since nobody clarified anything.
We were outside, but I asked them if I could go inside with them and see the situation. “No problem, just follow me”. Once we entered the building, there were several policemen.
I’m not sure what were they doing there, we didn’t stop, just went in. Later they told me, that they had been talking with the policemen to explain, that the thing was that they didn’t know why were they moving them, that the other Lager was much worse and that they would not move. This friend said that the police was shocked with this, since they had also been told that it was to go to a better place, but that in any case, they were just doing their job ( — side comment — I guess that one’s mind and sense of justice doesn’t work on working hours).
Once inside, everything is heartbreaking, aseptic walls, corridors, in one floor you could already see, rubbish bags full with personal belonging all over the place mixed with strollers and children’s toys.
They took me, what I guess is normally the dining room. It was full of people, maybe 50-60 people. “This people are part of the people that have been thrown out, but we will resist, we won’t go“. “Can we start a protest right now?” they asked me, followed by “Can they evict us by force, can they use the force, is it legal?“. I tried to explain that what is legal is not necessarily what they do, we are seeing daily how the authorities skip legality with total impunity. People in this room where coming and going. “Today they didn’t give us food. We didn’t have anything to eat”, that is part of the threats that the management have been menacing them, what other things could they do, we don’t know, but one thing is clear people working at this Lager have threaten refugees, if they don’t leave the lager without complain.
The friend I was talking with said, he had been living there for 1 year and 2 months, most of them had been staying there long, there had not been conflicts, at most some small discussions. Five months ago, the management of the Lager said, they would do some renovations in floors 4th and 5th, to improve their living conditions, for this reason they were squashed in floors 2nd and 3rd. In every room there are between 6-8 people. They accepted this situation since they thought it would be temporary, now they realised it was a lie. Many of them have already the status of refugee, but they are still in lagers under control of private companies, even if they are already under Job Center.
I had to go, so I left them, exchanging numbers to keep in touch and saying that I would explain what was going on, with the hope, that we, as people, can help each other and prevent their transfer to another lager.
Tomorrow Friday 07.10.2016, early in the morning police is expected to take them to the other lager, but maybe we can do something about it, right?