It’s quite sad to have the current title for this story, but for women who are not citizens, who are not welcome, who are alone, isolated, vulnerable, freedom is not part of their lives, so we cannot say openly where this conversation took place because measures against them can be taken because those who hold the power like playing illegally with women
Today was raining as if it was the end of the world. They call it summer but mostly seems Autumn.
All wet, I arrived to the meeting place. We were about to cancel the visit but who said that rain would stop us from meeting women from a lager where they are living in shit conditions.
We met in a Café outside the lager, it sounds nice, like providing some excuse to go out of the lager and meet with friends like people do, but the truth is different, we met outside because women are threaten by “The Office”. They give “friendly advices” to women who want to speak about their situation inside the lagers, those who want to share how is their daily life in a lager have to deal also with menaces, and we’ve seen this not only in one lager, so what will be written today applies for many other places.
Once we ordered some coffee to try to, at least recover from the dampness, we introduced ourselves, some of us were new, some not. Names from different countries, introductions said in different languages (also I won’t mention them since could point out who was talking to us), some of us were more chatty, it was the first time someone could speak with someone in her own language. Words came out non-stop, like a volcano, too many things to be said, too many months silent, too many experiences to be shared, desperation in the eyes, a big smile for being able to express it.
Translation makes things slow, but gives time to watch, to feel, when finally the words come, they describe how a woman in the lager found herself signing a paper she didn’t understand. The social worker had asked her to sign it but refused to explain what was it about, placed a book in the middle of the paper, but said it was something for some Bundesamt. The woman signed but asked for a copy.
She showed the copy to other women, the other women said she should not have signed that, something was wrong, finally someone else translated it, possibly from the security people, she had signed a paper giving the social worker full powers, that means she could have access to all her private information, letters, she took it without consent, without explaining, what for? Since she found out soon enough what she had signed, the refugee woman went to the office to ask for this paper, had it back and revoke the full powers, but did anyone react to this violation of rights? Not that we know.
Outside continued raining, everything was gray, umbrellas were mostly dark, people were running while jumping over the pods of water formed in the streets. Some people entered in the Café, looking for the same, a bit of shelter and probably a coffee.
I was absent for a moment, thinking what can be done, how can more people know about this daily situation in the more than 100 lagers, is it true that people can just ignore this situation and continue with their lives? I came back when I heard “social worker”, that very strange figure, with a strange role in the whole procedure of asylum. Every refugee has assigned one social worker, whose role is to basically be an interface to the lager system, they have to read/write/deliver letters, fix appointments, take care of accommodation or needs, in their hands they have the power to ruin a woman’s life. No, it’s not an exaggeration, I would like to have the margin to invent some drama situation but reality just provides it, we are told that a woman got the rejection for asylum just because the social worker didn’t deliver the letter with the date for the Interview, the “big” day for refugees where they explain why they are asking for asylum and based on this Interview it will be decided if a person gets asylum or not. This woman just didn’t receive the letter due to negligence.
In lager X there are 7 social workers, but they work 1h per day and three days a week(if so). There are not translators to all the languages spoken by the women, making women totally isolated from their environment, totally dependent on what is said inside the lager. Totally vulnerable. Most of the times social workers intrude into women’s lives, judging them instead of giving them help.
Since translators are not always there, women have to ask security people who speak their language for help, which as side effect has that the information that they shared instead of being private becomes shared among many other people.
Today we are outside, but we have been inside the lager before, so we know how those empty corridors are, but what stroke me more about the lager was the smell, it penetrated inside you, a mixture of smell of dirt and cleaning products, rubbish and air freshener, as if a deep rotten smell wanted to be hidden. A permanent feeling of disgust came while we were walking around the lager.
To walk around that was not allowed, the only place where we could be is in a room, a 9 m2 room, with a small bed, a locker, a small table, the feeling of a cell. Of course, when we left the lager, the woman who invited us was “friendly advised” that this should be the last time she showed around, it was forbidden to walk around, an empty building because everybody was inside, because there are no common spaces, a building where there is no dining room and women have to go outside, to the street, and through another entrance enter the place where they provide them with “food”.
“Food” is a whole issue in most lagers, the lager system steals 200€ from women for their catering, a catering that cannot be eaten, all products are in bad conditions, almost expired, cooked with too many spices, or does not cover diets recommended by doctors. Of course, no freedom for women to decide if they want to eat this “food” or eat outside, to cook for themselves is anyways not possible. Where are invested the 200€ per woman?
The situation is so critical that we visited a woman in Hospital, her kid got intoxicated by the food of the lager, provoking continuous vomiting, to the extreme he had to be hospitalized for at least 4 days, and every time he had to shit he burst into tears. The mother received half the amount the money that corresponded to her and her child, so with 400€ she had to manage one month and buy everything for him, from nappies, clothes to food since the child would normally not eat anything except rice and yogurt.
Now the Café was about to close, all the chairs were on top of the tables, the bar was clean, noone else was left, we started moving, putting on our wet jackets, checking that the rain continued as before, the water was entering the sidewalk. We said good bye, emphasized on checking the addresses we had given them and confirming that we will come back, anyways we will stay in touch.
From our previous visit to the lager we were able to take the following pictures
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