News / Europe

Immigrants in Germany Struggle With Legal Status

Refugees shout slogans during a protest by asylum seekers calling for fairer treatment from authorities as they pass through Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, October 13, 2012.
Refugees shout slogans during a protest by asylum seekers calling for fairer treatment from authorities as they pass through Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, October 13, 2012.
Michael Scaturro
Immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, who have sought refugee status in Europe, often face long waits before governments give them the go-ahead to work and settle in the countries where they have sought safety.  

Last year, some asylum seekers decided enough is enough.  In Germany, Austria, and elsewhere, they left their detention centers and erected tent camps to draw attention to their cause.  One such tent city remains open this winter in Berlin with the support of local residents and other immigrants. 

Back in October, immigrants from across Germany marched to Oranienplatz in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood to protest what they see as government foot-dragging in processing their asylum cases. 

The camp is run by the migrants themselves, with the support of local residents, and volunteers like Coco, an American woman in her early twenties.

"We sit at the infopoint, and a lot of the refugees who are staying here at the camp come and ask if we can help facilitate and help them find a place to eat, or a place to shower, or someone to wash their clothes.  And they've compiled this huge binder database of lots of people in and around this area who have volunteered rooms in their homes or have let us know if they have free rooms or showers or couches or if they can do a wash," said Coco.

The camp is expansive.  It has several tents with metal chimneys piping out smoke from stoves.  There are even tents where migrants and their supporters hold legal clinics, says Aisha, a woman from Somalia.

"We are discussing how we can help women to know their rights.  That's why we are here," she said.

Standing on the other side of the camp, in the food tent, is a young man in his early 20s, from Mali.  He is very withdrawn and prefers not to give his name. 

He says the traveled through Libya, then to Italy, before coming to Germany by train.

Napoli Polanga, from Sudan, sought asylum near Frankfurt, more than a year ago, and is not sure when she will be granted refugee status.

"Now we are just hanging around - we don't know what to do," she said.  "They just tell us to eat and sleep.  And this is not what we want.  So that's why we came out, said enough is enough, this is the time for resistance."

The movement has three demands, explains Napoli Polanga: "To abolish the 'lagers' - you know lagers, right?  Lagers are camps - prisons.  German people put us in these camps.  It's ridiculous.  We also want to abolish deportation.  We also want freedom of movement within Germany."

Paula Riester, a Green Party councilwoman in Berlin, says her party, and its supporters allowed the camp to remain and are helping raise money to keep it going. 

She said she does not think that the current government will make changes to the laws and that the only hope for change is if a new government is elected in the fall.

Asylum seekers stand outside an accommodation at a refugee holding centre in the town of Bad Belzig some 135 km (84 miles) south-west of Berlin, December 12, 2012.Asylum seekers stand outside an accommodation at a refugee holding centre in the town of Bad Belzig some 135 km (84 miles) south-west of Berlin, December 12, 2012.
x
Asylum seekers stand outside an accommodation at a refugee holding centre in the town of Bad Belzig some 135 km (84 miles) south-west of Berlin, December 12, 2012.
Asylum seekers stand outside an accommodation at a refugee holding centre in the town of Bad Belzig some 135 km (84 miles) south-west of Berlin, December 12, 2012.
Oliver Mohr, a spokesman for immigration minister Maria Boehmer, said he understands the immigrants' frustration, but that German politicians have to take the next step.  He explains that German lawmakers must ratify the changes if the immigrant situation is to be approved.

Until changes are made to the law, the immigrants are stuck.  Those whose applications for asylum were accepted by German authorities are seen as the lucky ones.  But others who arrived in Germany from third countries, like Italy, face deportation to Italy if they petition the German government for asylum.  The reason is an European Union-wide immigration law known as Dublin II.  Some of the migrants say they want to see Dublin II changed, but that is not likely to happen.  Nevertheless, Napoli and those who support her say they will continue their fight.

You May Like

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: VICTOR OWUSU ASANTE from: GHANA
February 22, 2013 4:09 PM
I think they should go back to their various countries

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid