Autumn is arriving again to Berlin, and today is a foggy day. It’s not so bad, it could be raining, but as I approach the Lager (migrants camp) in Osloerstr. 28 I realize that Summer has gone and that now the 200 people living in that Sporthalle prefer to stay inside.
When I arrive, everybody says Hallo to me, they know me well because I’ve been visiting them for the last 6 months. My presence breaks a little bit the routine of the wake up – eat – sleep lifestyle of people who aren’t able to find a flat in a gentrified city, who struggle to study German while sharing room with 200 (yes, not 2, nor 20) people. Today a couple of
them, Darek and a friend of him (both from Syria), were studying a German book, one of them has an exam on Tuesday of the level A1.1. He shows me the book of 200 pages, he is a little bit scared because he is still doing the exercises of the page 18. I wish him luck.
I walk a little bit more and I practice my Arabic with Fatima’s family: she has 4 daughters and 3 sons, and they all come from Syria. They are always with a smile in their faces. Well, not always, sometimes they get news from Syria and.
I go on, saying Hallo and stretching hands to everybody. At the other side of the basketball court a little head appears on top of one of the bunk beds and starts shaking a hand. It’s 50 meters away, but I can imagine perfectly the smile of one of the daughters of the Bosnian family that arrived to the Lager one month ago.
People are supposed to stay here at most 3 months, but many of them have been here for 1 year. The Bosnian family seems to be in a better mood, and the two little sisters together with the two little brothers come running to me. I promised last week that I was going to bring today my guitar, and so I did.
Other children, from Syrian families, also come to me because they know that when I come with the guitar, there will be a lot of noise, and well, you know, kids love noise. So I take out the guitar but… a security person comes to me and tells me that I shouldn’t play there. He says that people sleep, but it is 5:30 PM.
Well, I don’t want to fight today, so I just start walking like a clown with all the kids towards the area where children are supposed to play. One of the girls asks me about a friend of mine that came with me a couple of weeks ago, and I tell her that today she didn’t come. I will write to her later, kids are missing her! A Bosnian man joins us, he seems that he knows how to play the guitar. He came with the Bosnian family one month ago. So I gave him the guitar and he started singing, while the others were listening. After he sings a little bit, he gives me the guitar and I start singing a little bit. But kids want also to play the guitar, as always, so I make them sit in the chairs before I give them the guitars. I taught them
some weeks ago respiratory exercises so they relax a little bit, but they are a little bit excited, as always.
We start playing together and, for the first time, kids start also singing their own songs: today they were in Bosnian and Arabic. I see some other people living there that I know passing by, and I salute them, but when I come alone to the Lager it is a little bit difficult to chat with the other people, since kids are just too fun to ignore them.
A couple of young men also come for a song, but after this they leave. A little girls hurts herself while playing and comes to me with a finger bleeding, but she realizes that I can’t make anything because I’m with 6 other kids playing the guitar, so she goes somewhere else. Two minutes later, she comes with a sticking plaster on it and I let her play a little
bit more the guitar.
We stop playing and start walking to the little common room where the Kicker is. Today it is almost empty, and I ask the people there if I can make some noise with the kids. Another kid that was sitting there, who is the brother of a little girl that was playing with us, tells us that he would prefer to stay quiet. He has been depressed for a couple of months,
as far as I remember, but it seems that nobody is taking care of him.
After some time, it starts getting late, and I have to go to another meeting where we are going to discuss how can we make possible to create a safe space outside the Lager for the people. At the moment, we are trying with a Schrebergarten (like a small house with a little garden), which was an idea of an Iraqi man that we liked. After finishing with the kids, I
inform him that we are still studying the possibilities of his idea, and he seems surprised and happy. Hopefully we can make it work.
After him, I chat a little bit with a young man who plays very well the djembe, and our conversation is as usual: everything fine, everything as always, one more week happened, nothing remarkable to talk about. I should probably bring again the drums so that he can play a little bit.
And now I’m leaving, but I see Haki in the garden with two other men. He is a 60 years old Iraqi gentleman, as he likes to say. He shows me the last gadget that he bought for his phone: wireless speakers. I ask him if they also work with my phone (which is this kind of non-smart-phone that can’t make pictures) and we laugh. Today he is on a good mood. Other days, he feels a little bit down.
These people ended up his long journey here, but they don’t feel any satisfaction. They are in a limbo, waiting for something, but they don’t know exactly for what. They are not integrating in the society because they live in a Sporthalle, so it is impossible! The government separate them from us with this Lager system, and migrants living there don’t know how to come closer to the society. Some of them try to write for example to Wedding Hilft, but they don’t get any answer. Others try to go out of the Lager and walk around, but people in the city have always something else to worry about much more important that the guy who is sitting next to them.
What about if you, reading this lines, show up in a Lager (there are 180 in Berlin, they are easy to find), tell the security that you come to visit, and you start talking with the first person that you see?