Our deepest condolences goes to the people in Brussels who have been victims of recent attacks. Let us also not forget all those who throughout the world are also victims of such attacks and violence, as no life is more important than any other.
As Human Rights Matter celebrated in Pangea- Haus the beginning of Spring and Narooz, we also celebrated along with our neighbour organizations, local politicians and supporters and guests, anti-racism solidarity with this year’s special focus on showing our support to those who have fought so hard to come to Europe and Germany to find refuge.
As the program opened and the formal greetings were over we wanted more than anything to give an opportunity for our humble guests joining us from a Refugee camp in Berlin to speak about the real issues they were facing and had prepared long to give. As we heard our guests who have traveled far from fleeing war-torn countries and are attempting to settle in, but are finding external obstacles difficult to cope with. What they faced to get here is only half of the story, and the end of their journey is far from over. They are growing desperate and disillusioned at the limited prospects. They are most disappointed at the lack of empathy offered by those institutions tasked to assist them, the lack of humanity they have felt being ushered and scrambled to camps with little to no concern for their needs or wants. This has broken their trust in Western societies and most of all its institutions.
The message and questions in the microphone were clear: why was their passports taken and not returned or given to the next institution tasked to further assist? And most of all why did the authorities lack to acknowledge the nationality known in the passport and supporting identification documents, although it was stated where they came from? A paper issued to them when confiscating their identification documents by German authorities read clearly they had passports; but truth be told this paper was meaningless. As they attempted to use this paper to validate who they were with other German authorities, these authorities failed to recognize this paper as having any authority, the end result was as follows, while a temporary visa was issued what was written was clearly astonshing, the nationality section of the visa read: Unknown. This among other bureaucratic curiosities were presented. The repercussion of such minimal mistakes has created many problems for these people leaving them unable to receive the help so desperately needed: money for basic living and German courses in order to integrate. Even those who wanted to leave voluntarily are unable to leave, because they have no identification papers, rendering them essentially stateless. As one said, “I rather go home and face death.” (out of the disappointment of the lack of real help offered).
The next speaker went more to the heart of a political problem, why were Afghans not allowed to go to German courses? Why was there no assistance for Afghans, had they not suffered enough? Years of wars without any media attention and sympathy towards their struggle.
Local politician promised to help, but the issue lies much deeper, how is it possible that politics takes the front seat over humanitarian concern and how is it that these important decisions are made unilaterally in offices? They asked after the event how it was that people under the same conditions have received different treatment? What was the reason? This question was one as lawyers we were not expecting but, we all knew the reasons and it was not unknown to us. The reality of bureaucratic decisions is well known and somehow managed by Germans and foreigners living here alike. We all know that as we enter an office, that much depends on the moods and perceived sense of authority of the person behind the desk. We learn to manoeuvre ourselves and hope for the best.
Our guests had a clear prognosis of the situation, the decisions taken by those Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge- Federal Ministry of Migration and Refugees of BMAF and landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales (LAGeSo) known in English as Ministry of Social Welfare and Health were all over the place and what advice or assistance you received was a matter of luck! Some got lucky and others did not. Much like the Greek mythologies our lives and especially those vulnerable like those seeking refuge, are in the hands of the gods and cosmos.
Nevertheless, when an issue like the one facing these authorities and institutions like the management of a massive amount of people we must ask ourselves whether such systems are really working? And if not, could they be improved? And if so how?
As we marched to LAGeSo we wanted our message to be clear and simple “No to Bureaucracy and Yes to Refugees!”