Jun 152017

It was after lunch, the phone rang and a friend asked me if I could accompany an African woman to LAF (the institution in charge of deciding about Asylum), she was not well treated the day she went alone, also she speaks only French as European language. My answer, “yes, of course”. So next day in the early morning we were meeting at the Ubahn (the metro), we chatted a little bit until we arrived at the place. She told me first day she was alone and had been a bad experience, after she had gone with another friend and things changed just because she was being accompanied.

We arrived, showed the corresponding papers; they ask me if I’m accompanying, “yes, I am”, they show us the way to the first floor, I asked to go by lift, the security looks at me with a strange face, I wonder why, I’m accompanying a pregnant woman, on her 7th month. My experience from inside this process starts but noone tell us when is it going to be our turn, there are no numbers, so we can not move, they will call us at some point. My, already by now friend, starts explaining that she has had other appointments, she tells me with a lot of confidence, although it looks almost empty (a very big room was completely empty apart from us) upstairs we will find people and they will keep us here for hours. Now we are sitting here but then we will have to go to one office, then to another one and like this four times. I feel quite surprised that she understands so well what is going on, she has just arrived to Germany, she does not know the language and she has been almost to all the appointments alone and most of the times there are no translators.

First call, they take my friend to one room, when she comes back she tells me that they asked her “What’s your name?” “What’s your surname?”, “Where do you come from” “Date of birth?”, “Father, mother, sisters, brothers name”, “Date of birth of them”, “Are you married?” “Do you have children?”, this very same questions will be asked at least 3 more times during the same interview, “Are you married in you home country?” “do you have a husband in your home country?” … they filled in a form and that’s it, but is took around 45 minutes.
We wait again, in between they bring some sandwiches and drinks, food only for asylum-seekers, but they gave me some water. Sandwiches were really bad, I start thinking of what comes next. Suddenly someone comes and asks us, “What can I do for you?”, we look at each other and we are confused, they should know what they have to do, right?, we say “We are waiting”, ok, woman gone. We’ve bee waiting for at least 2h. Finally someone comes and shows us the way to the next office, it’s a counseling office from the Sozialdienst, they are there to tell us what is going to happen next with the asylum process. There is a translator, with not a friendly face … I smile a lot, as to say, come on, you can relax a bit … no luck, she did not smile. The counselor starts, blablablabla … at some point says, she must know she has rights, and that’s why I’m here for, to let her know … the translator decided to skip that part, I guess, why should be important to tell an African woman that she has rights … I try no to think too much, I prefer to think ok she just forgot, too many things to translate, the counselor continued, she looked at me a lot, I was wondering why, I was not asking for asylum and I was not the translator, never mind, it was good for me, it made me be focused … “she must know she has the right to …” … again the translator skipped that part … mmmm…. I started thinking not that well about the translator, also I must say that it was not a good translator, skipped most of the details and did some free translation giving advice, nothing very crucial but …. I’m not native French speaker but I do understand it pretty well, so. It was 13:25h the translator decided she had to go, but the counselor had not finished, she looked at me and said, then you can continue … “mmm ok, well …”.

Back again downstairs, they needed to ask some more questions “What’s your name?” “What’s your surname?” “Are you married?” “Do you have a husband?” “Where are you from?” … the translator was there again, somehow someone had called her again or probably she was friend of the person working behind the desk. We waited a bit more, my friend told me, you know all these German people never smiled, they have this face, she looked like constipated, then she started to laugh openly and I joined, I think is the very first thing we all migrants think when we arrive, why do people not smile. Still an unanswered question.

By now we had three out of four boxes ticked, that means the interviews/forms/offices through which we had gone through. The last one for today, medical check, the form was in German, and well I don’t even know the name of most of the diseases in my own language, I can assure anyone I have no idea what they mean in German, the translator said she won’t come. The medical person says, wait a translator has to come, I say “well, she said she is not coming”, the medical person looks at me as if I was saying nonsense, “ok”. Three minutes later, “well there is no translator, maybe you can help”, mmmm I can accept to translate about general things, you know “Whats your name?” “Are you married?” “Which is your home country?” “Do you have a husband?” but to deal with health issues is another thing, I don’t feel comfortable now, mmm how do you say kidneys in German?Spanish? does it sound something like in French? … mmmm … well we showed the medical pass that my friend had due to her pregnancy, her doctor talks French, she will ask her this questions. Phewwww!!!. Now a blood test to check about tuberculosis. I go outside.

By now is 14:30 we had arrived at 9:30, I’m tired of seating, my back hurts, I decided to walk around, the big lounge is completely empty, there are only around 6 security people (but remember there are no French translators), a woman cleaning a clean floor and nothing else. I start moving, 2 minutes later one of the security guys tells me, “can you please remain seated?”, I’m not sure if it’s a joke, I understand they are bored, so I smile and continue walking, then he asks me the same again, then I reply “But why? there is nobody around and I’ve been already 5h seating”, the answer “maybe comes someone from the office and sees you walking, they don’t know what are you doing and then they will call us to order” I could not react, what did this exactly mean? people have gone completely stupid, their souls have been stolen? … I decided to go to the toilets, then I had an excuse to walk. They show me where are the toilets, they are outside, it’s a container. I start thinking, now, it the so-called summer in Berlin, but in winter, I mean I month ago, had people to go outside just to pea or wash their hands?. No comments.
By now I was too tired, astonished, amazed of what it means to go through the long process of bureaucracy, and this is just the first step, the next day continued.

Next day, 8 o’clock in the morning, standing in front of the door. A couple of pregnant woman but no chairs. One by one we start entering. While entering they register our things they check if we have knives, probably so that nobody commits suicided while going through the process, but I must say, the security a very big smile, I wondered. Inside, also only 2 chairs, I ask for another one (it belonged to the security but they said ok, we could use it). This time they guided the pregnant women and the people with them to go upstairs on the lift . Another big waiting room. 7 people of a security company, around 30 asylum-seekers.

First call, a couple of guys approach to us, “Come”, we stand up and follow them, they ask “She speaks English right?”, “No” is my answer, they look at her an speak to her veeery slowly and a bit loud in English maybe like this she will understand English, I wonder what part of “No” they didn’t get, but still my friend looks at me wondering what does she have to say, I tell them, I speak French I can help with the translation, they guys look relieved, “Fine, thanks”, we go together to this first office, there are 3 chairs and a table, we sit, they start with the form, “What’s your name?” “What’s your surname?”, “where do you come from” “Date of birth?”, “Father, mother, sisters, brothers name”, “date of birth of them”, “Are you married?” “Do you have children?”, this very same questions will be asked at least 3 more times during the same interview, “Are you married in you home country?” “do you have a husband in your home country?” … difficult questions to answer so they have to double check… more questions about the family “how many aunts, uncles, cousins,etc?”, impossible to answer … then comes the observation “can you ask again how many brothers and sisters? you know, sometimes the father is married several times” … I played the role of the translator but I really was wondering what is the purpose of asking the same again and again but to pressure people and to give for granted that they are lying. On the other side of the table we have an apprenticeship, not knowing how to write in German very well, checking on the phone the spelling, being assessed by other guy from his same country of origin, I make a guess, they are contracting the same refugees to work with the refugees asking for asylum, creating a division, drawing a thin line of power, shutting many mouths because it’s a job, the most important part issue to grant integration in Germany…. but well is just I guess, probably I’ll be wrong. After taking around one hour to answer around 20 question regarding personal data, they send us again downstairs, being thankful for the translation, asking me where I come from, and smiling when I say Spain.Ok.

They gave us hope, don’t worry the next interview will be in some instants and before 12 you will be finish. It has 10am, we were there already 2h. We sat down. Around half an hour later they came with the sandwiches, water and peaches. My friend looks at the peach, “what it this? is it an apple?” …mmmm I don’t know how to explain what is a peach, so I just say “Well if they are sweet, they taste nice”, sometimes I come up with some kind of stupid answers but is true, I like peaches when they are sweet :-D.
We continued chatting, she said “they don’t have translator because I’m black, they don’t care about Africans”, I can agree on that but I can also imagine they just want that the asylum process does not work, for nobody. Today she didn’t eat the sandwiches but she had bought some biscuits, at some point she asked me, “do you think I can offer biscuits to the children”, I said “I think so, I don’t think there is any problem” my friend continues, “maybe the mother does no like it”, I didn’t know what to say, it really kind of depends on the mother, she continues “in Africa, or in my country, if a child stares at you when you are eating means that he wants to eat, so it’s not nice if you don’t give the child part of what you are eating. This child was looking at me, and I feel bad if I don’t share it with him”. I didn’t know what to say, for me children just tend to look at everything, and they are really curious about people, how they move, act, so I had not thought about the possibility that when they look at you, it means that they want to eat.”Do as you feel, I don’t think the mother minds if you offer something to her son” but she was shy to do it and she just kept staring at the child, at her biscuits as wishing that it would just happen that the child would get them. Maybe next time she just asks the mum, who knows in what language, but humans are quite incredible when it comes to want to communicate, so I guess there would not be any problem.

Its 11:30h, already 4h, a translator comes and shows us the way to the next office, I go with them, when I arrived the civil servant feels confused, who am I and what am I doing there, well I’m a friend. They don’t know what to do( with a friend!!!) , so they accept me to stay. They start asking some question, guess which ones, yesssssss “What’s your name? and surname? your country of birth?” They wanted to check the form that had been written by the guys that did the previous interview, amazing!!!! The translator asks me if I’m French, I say no, I’m Spanish, another smile, ahhh I go every year on holidays to Barcelona, where are you from?” “Madrid” … then the classical joke “ahh Madrid-Barcelona rivals” … mmm … he continues with the same questions, “do you have a lawyer?” “does he represent you?” uffff … I decide to ask the translator in French, “Where are you from?”, he answers from a country in the north of Africa, “ahhh nice :-)”. The public servant says, “you can only talk in German because I have to understand it and better is you don’t talk” “ups, sorry”.
We are finish, but still one more interview to come. We wait for around 40 min, the translator comes again, this time I cannot follow them, so I stay in the waiting room with the rest of the people, I need to move again, this time they don’t say anything, I try to seat after, “No you cannot seat there, you have to seat on the other area” .. again I’m puzzled, we are all packed in one half of the room while the other half is basically empty, there are no signs indicating the difference. But again I’m already tired, I decide to continue walking, also this morning the phone was very quite, no friends chatting, no groups talking, boring and I was getting nervous I had to go to work, and still we had not finished.

At around 13h my friend came back, guess what, they did her again the same questions, the difference this time was that at the end of the interview they said, “she is telling the truth”. No comments.

I thought we had finish but no, there was still another interview pending, I had to go, so I said bye to my friend and told her that if everything she could reach me by phone, but I really needed to go to work. She phoned me at 15:30h she just had finished, the last interview was for asking her why was she asking for asylum, “because I’m threaten to death”. Now they will send a letter to the lawyer with the appointment for the big, final definitive Interview, key for getting the asylum, and it will take around 3h-4h.

I leave the building, I ask where is the exit, a security show me the way, he asks me “Are you from Spain”, “yes”, “I go every year for holidays to one of the islands”, “nice”, then he asks “Do you want to have a  coffee?” … mmmm … “I don’t have time”, “No, I mean another time” .  “Well, not really”. No comments.









 Posted by at 3:37 pm
Apr 092017

#luxTrial March for Freedom still marchingEn todos los rincones del mundo, la gente, sus pueblos están luchando por sus derechos, pero vivimos en una época donde el exceso de información nos satura y hace que la memoria se mantenga a corto plazo y archive luchas pasadas. Pero a la vez sabemos que nuestras luchas están conectadas, que el capitalismo está devorando todos nuestros derechos pero a la vez siente la amenaza de todos esos levantamientos populares alrededor de todo el globo.

Desde el 2011, cuando comenzó la primavera árabe en Túnez y fue recorriendo como una ola el mundo, cuando tomamos las plazas, y nos volvimos a encontrar pasó algo sin precedentes, fuimos capaces de vernos en esos otros, lejanos pero no ajenos, nos reconocimos en sus luchas y ellos en las nuestras, la fronteras se desdibujaron.
Ahora hemos puesto el foco en nuestras luchas locales, el mundo quedó allá afuera, nos enfrentamos a leyes más represivas, a situaciones de precariedad más acuciantes, poco a poco se va instalando una cultura del miedo, pero es nuestra responsabilidad desbordarla y seguir conectados.

La llamada “March for Freedom” or Marcha por la libertad, fue una inicitativa autoorganizada que surgió después del movimiento de Oplatz, donde se tomó una plaza en el centro de Berlin. El movimiento luchar por los derechos de los refugiados, por la libertad de movimiento y por el derecho a quedarse (y no ser deportado), fue un momento significativo, lleno de fuerza y energía, donde distintos grupos de refugiados se unieron para luchar contra la política de aislamiento, represión, segregación, la violación sistemática de los derechos humanos por las leyes de asilo. Se consiguieron algunas victorias como la abolición del  Residenzpflicht, o la restricción de movimiento de los refugiados a un diametro determinado alrededor de la ciudad donde había pedido el asilo.

La “March for Freedom”, tenía como objetivo marchar a través de Europa, convirtiéndose es un desafío contra las leyes de la Europa fortaleza, al tener que cruzar varias fronteras, haciendo visible  lo absurdo de su existencia, denunciando la política europea de asilo. Al pasar por pueblos y ciudades, la marcha se encontró con el apoyo, la solidaridad de la gente, destacando así que la gente es gente.

Las acciones llevadas a cabo durante la marcha estaban basadas en tácticas de desobediencia civil y no-violenta, visitando campos de refugiados, cantando, gritando eslóganes, para desenmascarar lo inhumano de las políticas migratorias.

 Paralelamente en Luxemburgo estaba teniendo lugar un encuentro euroepa de ministros del Interior. Como uno de los puntos en el orden del día era la política migratoria, la protección de las fronteras, desde la “March for Freedom” se decidió hacer una parada delante de la sede de dicha reunión. Así, se hizo una manifestación pidiendo hablar en dicho encuentro, al considerarse que las personas afectadas deberían tener derecho a expresarse sobre su futuro. La policia reaccionó de una forma más violenta que lo esperado, no quisieron tener interlocutor con la Marcha, usaros gas pimienta, gas lacrimógeno, porrazos, contaban con la presencia de perros policías, uno de los cuales lanzaron contra un manifestante. El resultado fueron 13 personas detenidas, que al cabo de algunas horas fueron puestas en libertad.

La violencia policial fue ampliamente documentada, por fotógrafas, activistas, periodistas, hasta tal punto fue desproporcionada que hubo denuncias personales contra la policía en las embajadas de Luxemburgo de los países de origen.

Os recomendamos escuchar el programa de radio de #WeRadio donde se relata la experiencia.

Dos años y medio después, 6 activistas han sido acusado de rebelión armada contra el estado de Luxemburgo y por uso de violencia contra la policía. Tres de los inculpados son personas en proceso de petición de asilo y las otras tres personas son activistas dentro del movimiento de apoyo a los refugiados. Las personas no fueron notificadas con el suficiente tiempo como para poder hacer una apelación de la denuncia.

El juicio se celebró en dos días, el 5 y 6 de abril. Decenas de activistas estuvieron en el juicio dando apoyo a los acusados. El primer día, se mostraron vídeos del día de los hechos y declararon 2 de los inculpados. La traducción(al alemán y al árabe) proporcionada fue deficiente ya que no se traducía correctamente el contenido de los testimonios . El segundo día, declararon el resto de inculpados así como la policía, no se dio ninguna evidencia sobre los hechos de la acusación y tampoco si los inculpados eran quienes habían cometido los hechos. Uno de los policías declaró daños morales como resultado de haber tenido que hacer uso de la medicación contra el SIDA, al tener miedo de haber sido contagiado durante la manifestación.

Los policias reclaman una indemnización por daños de 19.200 euros. La sentencia del juez llegará en el mes de mayo.
El objetivo es dejar claro que en todo Europa se está llevando a cabo una criminalización de todas aquellas personas que están luchando por los derechos de los refugiados y migrantes, denunciando las políticas de colonización y la complicidad con los dictadores por parte de los gobiernos europeos.

Se agradecería cualquier muestra de apoyo, ayuda a la difusión del juicio contra “March for Freedom”, puedes hacerlo traduciendo, diseñando, componiendo, dibujando, escribiendo, cantando, apoyo financiero, te puedes poner en contacto con  oplatz AT y así aprovechamos y vamos tejiendo redes.

 Posted by at 2:40 pm
Mar 122017

It was 8th of March 2017, the day was still more like a winter day, gray, cold, but at least it didn’t rain. Women in exile had done the call to celebrate the International Women’s Day in Eisenhüttenstadt . We would go together by train. Meeting time was around 10am, meeting place was Alexanderplatz.

When I left home still many people where going to work, to school … so arriving to Alexanderplatz gave no feeling of celebration of the International Women’s Day but arriving to platform 1, one could to see a big number of women, greeting each other, chatting, the good mood was in the air, immediately I recognized the meeting point, they were the women from Women in exile.

The excitement was present, for many it would be their first demo, for others time to meet again, and many were going back to Eisenhüttenstadt, the Lager where many of them stayed for the first time, it’s a Erstaufnahme Lager, so many of them knew each other from their stay inside.

While waiting for the train, people from SOLIMATE, wanted to do a picture of the women, since their project is also supporting Women in Exile, the light was strange, bright at time, then dark, sometimes blazing, it made difficult the work for the camera girl. But finally there was a moment of “light” stability and they did the picture.

Ahead we had 2:30h travel to the Lager, it’s in the border with Poland, no direct train, we had to do one change and once we arrived to the town, take a bus for 30 min until we arrived to the Lager. In the train we were around 50-55 women traveling to more or less the end of the world, chatting cheerful, the children up and down, seeing the train as an amusement park. It was a moment to get in touch with people that you didn’t know or with whom you normally don’t have the chance to speak much. So the first part of the trip went good.

Once we arrived to the Lager, at the door there were police, although normally there is always a car, now there were several cars and vans. We started gathering and the goal was that some women went inside the Lager and give flowers to the women, to break the isolation, to show that they are not alone, to give them the courage to continue, to join us, to understand that many people think that Lagers should be closed, that they are not homes but prisons and people inside have done nothing wrong to be there, they don’t deserve it.

But police was implacable, no way to make them understand that a Lager is not a prison were people could not be visited, that the goal was only to give flowers, to remind International Women’s Day. Not only they didn’t accept the idea of entering the Lager, but they “invited” the group to move 100m away from the gate.

While talking with the police, women went loud, women after women took the microphone of the loud speaker, and made clear that “lagers had to be closed, controls have to finish, discrimination has to finish”, “equal rights to everybody”, “stop deportation”, “we are here (refugees) because you are there(German/western governments)”, “That (lager) is not a home is a prison”, “ohh lele oh lala solidarité avec les sans papier”.

Anyways women from the Lagers joined, trickling in, one by one, those who were going out or coming in, some stayed, others smiled and said thank you for the flower, maybe next time we will see them at a meeting.

When women were not talking in the micro, the music was playing, many were dancing, other chatting, other giving out flowers and flyer’s, other taking care of the food and drinks. After around 3h we decided to go back, so it was announced a small demo to the bus stop, since the police didn’t give permission to a spontan demo.
The small demo, as the rest of the day, was full of power, of outrage, of decision to continue fighting, of continuing being loud.

Once in the station we found out there was no more trains going back to Berlin, there was a bus substituting the train, but the bus didn’t have enough places for everybody, so some people were left behind waiting for the next bus to come. That’s the everyday situation people in lagers have to cope with, few buses to the lager, trains being canceled, never knowing when you would arrive.

One thing is clear, it was not the first time to be in Eisenhüttenstadt and it won’t be the last, while the keep lagers open, we will return.


 Posted by at 10:32 am
Nov 012016

Almost two weeks ago, around 20 people were thrown out of the Lager at #Bornitzstr102. Many people will think, that is a bitter pill to swallow but things will go back to normal.
The thing is that there is nothing normal about living in a Lager. After the company moved the people to the “new” renovated floors upstairs, after taking several months to do it, after squashing the people for several months in less rooms promising them they would all stay, the fact is that they didn’t even accomplish the so-called renovations, the promised kitchens for the families are closed. Where are they cooking and how?

I’m still in contact with some of the people, so more conversations have been going on, from trying to reach the 8-10 people to whom the police opened a case, but having no success and wondering if they are aware that is important that they get advise before handling or accepting whatever letter comes from the police.
But not all the talks go around their situation in Germany, life didn’t start here. Through these talks come the memories of home, where all the cooking is house made, where all the fruits and vegetables are directly grown by them or some family member,”supermarkets are not the places where we buy fresh food”. The aromas of house-made food seeps in the room for a moment. Then I asked “what do you think will happen with the war on Syria?”, a couple of seconds pause and the answer comes “the war will not stop. There are too many interests. All are small groups divided, wanting power and greedy. Also now is not longer only about Syria, is a world war”. Nothing to say. We continue with small memories of things happening some years ago. “When I moved to Aleppo people thought that in the East (where I come from) we didn’t have anything, schools, electricity, can you imagine?”. The East of Syria is actually where the oil is, so is it not everything about oil?

At some point the conversation ended up with, “you know what is a fact, now we don’t have the “privilege” to be able to go back home. That’s the difference between Syrians and other nations, everything is destroyed, we have no home where to go back to.” Now everyday, he has to deal with this feeling, but even though “it’s not yet time to mourn our dead, the day will come when we cry for them, now we have to continue”.

All these words, stuck into my brain, left me thoughtful, while going back home. Automatically I entered in the ubahn, all the words popping in and out, images, aromas, at some point I saw a figure, which I thought I recognized, but there was something that made me not sure, still words coming and going while trying to focus in the face I was looking at. Suddenly a smile appeared, “hey”, so I thought “ok, I was right I know him” and directly I sited by his side. he had some ugly marks around his eyes, his eyes were red, sparkling as if they had been in tears, “what happened?” I asked, “6 people just beat me up“, astonished I answered “Whatttt?”, “yes, they asked me where are you from? From Syria”, and then the group started beating him up, in the head, the face, the legs, the arms, he had everything in pain. “Half an hour ago, I was crying like a little boy” he said with half smile. “Where? Who?” and really could not come out of the state fo the previous conversation, when I met this young guy, also staying in the same Lager. “They sprayed me with pepper spray. Do you smell it?” For a second I was tempted to say yes, but actually I didn’t smell anything, which proofs nothing since my nose is not very sensitive. Then he took something out of his pocket “Look, I also have pepper spray but I didn’t even have the time to take my hand out of the pocket, everything happened very quickly”
The only thing I managed to say, with some sense was “do you have where to spend the night or a couple of days?” “Yes, I’ll stay at a German’s friend. I just want to take a shower and sleep.” Then I suggested that he had to talk with some group Reachout or Rote-hilfe, to denounce the aggression. It can not go unpunished, “I just want to forget, I don’t want to be near the police”, “you don’t need to talk to the police, just talk with any of these groups so they can help and advise you or at least, they can document the aggressions that are taking place, to create awareness.
He kept silence, thinking “my friend will help me, now I just want to get to Kreuzberg, is the safe zone.”

 Posted by at 7:16 pm