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Dublin Opinion >>
Refugee Hunger Strike Berlin
A description of the last weeks events in Berlin and Germany from refugee and asylum seekers against the racist system of immigration policy in Europe.
They are fighting against deportation, for freedom of movement, for the closure of refugee camps, for the dignity and better living conditions of refugees in Germany.
Brandenburger Tor: 28th October. 20 people on hunger strike, day 5
The first day of the hunger strike action was the 24th October.
The group decided to set up a tent in front of Brandenburger Tor, in Pariser Platz. This is a famous historical site and popular tourist destination in Berlin. It is surrounded by hotels, banks and embassies. On setting up the tent the group of hunger strikers were immediately informed by police that it was forbidden to do so. In order to get permission for a tent the case would have to go to court with a waiting time of at least two weeks. The rest of the equipment the group had with them, sleeping bag, blankets, stools, isomatts, were also indicated as forbidden. The tent stood for some hours and then the police moved in and dismantled it. They worked as the people shouted... NO PERSON IS ILLEGAL!
Since then the hunger strikers and supporters have spent four nights at the square. The police regularly attack the strike in order to remove the offending articles, supporters keep bringing back sleeping bags and warm clothes. The police have twice chosen to attack in the early morning, when it gets coldest, and when less people are around. At this moment the hunger strike is registered as a rally.
People are offering their support by being there through the night with the strikers, bringing tea and hot water bottles. As many people are walking past there are opportunities to talk to people, explain the motivations of the hunger strikers, distribute flyers.
On the night of the 24th three people were arrested for using sleeping bags against the cold. One refugee had to go to hospital due to a leg injury sustained while being arrested. The next morning three more of the hunger striking refugees were arrested. The next day saw a demo from the Branderburger Tor to the place where the prisoners were being held. After a group sat on the ground to demand the release of the arrested friends the police forcibly removed them and arrested three more people. All arrested were later released.
On the 27th one hunger striker went to hospital. He left after two hours of not being seen by a doctor and rejoined the other refugees at the Brandenburger Tor.
Last night was the forth night of hunger strike. The temperature was 4 degrees. At 2am the police violently removed all articles from the hunger strikers that could be used for warmth.
Oranienplatz Tent, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf.
In early September asylum seekers from Würzburg marched for 28th days to Berlin in order to protest against asylum regulations such as residency restrictions, deportation and detention centers. Other groups travelled by bus, visiting several refugee centers on the way and informing them about the movement. On arriving in Berlin they joined the protest site set up on a central square, Oranienplatz, in Berlin.
The tent at Oranienplatz is tolerated by the city district. There are sleeping places, a functioning kitchen with donated food and regular prepared warm meals, an info tent, a place to meet, water and toilet facilities.
Supporters do security shifts through the night, and help with maintenance and cooking at the site. Several working groups have established including legal, finance, media, info, security, kitchen, children, action, lager.
Another protest has established in front of the police station in Frankfurt. For protection against rain and cold they could build a pavilion.
Also in Dusseldorf refugees may now build a tent. Here however it is restricted to nine meters square with a maximum of two people allowed to sleep there.
Waßmanndorf Detention Centre
In Germany asylum seekers are obliged to live in Lager. One such place is located in Waßmanndorf, a one hour ride from Berlin centre with public transport. The people there live in two dilapidated buildings, one toilet per building, warm water only in the morning. Nazi attacked the building on the 9th October. Rocks and bottles were thrown in through the window on sleeping people and nazi slogans sprayed on the walls outside.. The response from the authorities was to shut off transport to the detention centre leaving the next closest bus stop a long walk through the neighborhood.
On 27th a demo to highlight these conditions came to the Lager, bringing awareness to precocity and isolation of the people living there
The refugees at Waßmanndorf had been told by management that a nazi march was on the way and using this as an excuse had locked the gate of the building. When the demo arrived the people inside managed to take a banner from the demo and hang it on the outside wall of the building, fighting against the security and managing to keep it there. Others climbed up onto the roof of the building. After some time it was possible for 20 people to gain access to the house and meet the people living there. They meet a person who has been living for one year there with TB in his leg and had not received proper medical treatment.
Accusations against Police
The Berlin Police are under harsh criticism due to violence of the last weeks and strong accusations of racism. On the 15th October there was an occupation of the Nigerian Embassy by refugees and activists. The police forcibly removed them. Several protesters suffered severe bruising and shock (diagnosed by a doctor) due to the violence used to clear the peaceful occupation. The police have been accused of making racist comments and threats during there handling of the people. Three official complaints have been filed against police involved in this action.