For the final program of the year, Killa and Jennifer discuss the dirty deals the EU is making to keep externalising the EU borders on the one hand and to make pushbacks and deportations easier on the other – and Germany’s central role in these tactics even as it projects itself as an upholder of human rights. Syrine from Watch the Med – Alarmphone and Christina from Women* in Exile & Friends join to talk about how these policies impact the situation for migrants and refugees in Germany and what have to be our strategies to fight back.

*This episode was recorded with proper Corona protective measures in accordance with restrictions*

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Transcript & translation

KILLA
Hi everybody, my name is Killa Kupfer. Today I’m joined by my compañera Jennifer Kamau. You’re listening to IWS radio, a podcast on the migrant women experience.

Today for our 10th program, we will talk about the externalization of the EU borders and the dirty deals the EU, and especially Germany, is making to keep externalizing the borders on the one hand, and also to make deportations easier, on the other. And how these policies impact also the situation for migrants and refugees in Germany.

To discuss these topics, we invited Christina David from Women* in Exile and Syrine Boukadida from Watch the Med – AlarmPhone. Welcome.

So we want today to shatter this “clean hands” image of Germany that it wants to keep, and sadly in reality, is keeping as this upholder of human rights, like the federal Foreign Office, Auswärtiges Amt, claims proudly on their website, “Human rights: a cornerstone of German foreign policy”.

But it is so clear that Germany is not outside or above the EU border politics that are killing people at the borders and in the Mediterranean. They’re actually in the center of it. Germany continues to make deals with countries outside of Europe to make deportations easier, and even during this pandemic, and to further and further externalize the outer borders so that they can stop migrants from coming.

From Libya to Turkey to Niger to Ethiopia, Germany is paying other countries to do the dirty work of curtailing migration and deporting migrants. They are outsourcing it more and more so that it isn’t anymore about the situation in Germany or even the EU.

Then on the other hand here in Germany, they are able, or they are trying, to wipe their hands clean of the violence in the asylum process by invisibilizing it, by forcing refugees to stay in lagers that most often in very isolated areas and through policies like Residentzpflicht that criminalizes and denies people their freedom of movement. The border and migration policies inside and outside of Germany are going hand in hand.

And today we want to have a conversation about this, to talk about how should we react to this and what have to be our strategies in terms of fighting these policies.

Okay, I will start with you Syrine. It is really great to have you here today. So maybe you can give a short introduction of yourself and the work that the AlarmPhone does.

In the second episode of this radio, we had Hela on [the program], also from the AlarmPhone and this was in the summer. So it was also a different time. And she was also talking about how the COVID outbreak was used a lot as an excuse, especially by Italy and Malta, to lock down somehow. So yes, maybe also you can talk about how this situation has changed, or what has been going on since then.

SYRINE
Thank you for having me. My name is Syrine and I’m part of the AlarmPhone since the very beginning, so since more than five years now. I live in Berlin since some time also, and I’m part of the Berlin local team of the AlarmPhone.

About the situation with Corona and the border situation, I think it didn’t get better. And this excuse is used even more in what we can see that in Italy, for example, migrants who arrived to Italy, they have to be in quarantine for two weeks. For this they have been completely isolated. They would be put into these big ferries, in the water, and they have to stay for at least two weeks. They get tested and they stay there and then after getting tested the second time they can be transferred to the centers on land.

There are now some voices being raised against this in Italy and trying to stop this complete isolation because after spending all this time at the sea and then being quarantined on a boat with all these people being close together it doesn’t make sense.

Also, in the camps, we see it in Greece, where people are locked down. In camps where there is not even the minimum of necessity, not enough water, not enough hygiene products, not enough food sometimes and people are not allowed to go out. And when there is a suspicion of a Corona case, people are completely even more isolated within the camp. Like we saw in the last month, the fire outbreaks in the camps in Greece – the situation is really on all the levels … For example, in Morocco, at the borders in the western Mediterranean, people are struggling to even to eat because they have no access to jobs or to things that they used to have to be able to survive. So in my opinion, it’s getting worse and worse.

KILLA
Can you maybe shortly also introduce the work that AlarmPhone does?

SYRINE
Yeah, so the AlarmPhone is a network of, I think, around 200 people at this point. And it’s a transnational network. It’s organized all over Europe, North Africa. It’s a bit spread in different cities, I think. Maybe I don’t give a number, but more than 20 cities where we have groups and active members.

We are a hotline for people who are in distress at sea. So when people are in boats, and they need rescue, they can reach our number. And we establish contact with them, we stay in contact, we get their position, and we inform the authorities that these people need to be rescued. We also, especially in these times, most of our work is to put pressure on these authorities who refuse to act. We also document the cases and violations of human rights at sea. We also document push backs and pullbacks and violence that’s happening also at the borders. We also write a lot of reports that could be a very good resource for people to get informed about the situation. That’s how it works and it’s 24/7 reachable hotline.

KILLA
Okay, thank you. So like I said in the introduction we want to talk about, the outside [borders] of Germany and the further externalization [of the borders], but also connect it to the situation in Germany. And we know that Germany has been one of the main actors actually shaping the EU policies to externalize the EU borders and the tactics that push migrants back at sea.

So the taz reported that at the Valletta summit in 2015, and I will quote “the EU try to persuade over 300 African states to come to a kind of general agreement on a ban on refugees. And to this end, it set up the EU emergency Trust Fund for Africa. So around 4.6 billion euros have now flowed into this fund. Its development aid was wages for migrant control.”

So, I mean, this is one part for sure, but also not just deals with the countries in Africa. Germany has also made deals now with Albania and Montenegro in the last year, so that Frontex can have a presence there. And they’re also trying to make similar deals with North Macedonia and Serbia.

So the tagesschau, and I mention it because it’s like one of the main outlets, also just released an investigation a couple of weeks ago showing that the German Bundespolizei, like the state police, maybe I will translate it, are actively involved in the illegal push backs that are happening at the borders of Greece, which I mean, you know all along, you’ve been reporting all along. We know also. I mean it’s mainstream media also, no? And the reaction was zero.

Can you explain more about this politics of externalization and pushback, how they look like and how it is happening and developing?

SYRINE
Push backs have always been a technique that is used – for years. With the presence of Frontex, them watching and even helping with it and working on it. It has been scandalized many times already but as you said, always no reaction or kind of saying, “Yeah, but that’s how it is, that’s how it should be.”

So this externalization policies, you can see it very clearly, for example, in North Africa, and not even just North Africa, the borders of Europe start at the Sahara, actually. We have our, we call it our sister project, Alarmphone Sahara, that works on this area, because that’s actually where the borders to Europe start.

Like you said, development funds so Europe gives money to countries and in return, they have to control their migration. And by controlling migration, it means basically just catching migrants in the street and bringing them back to the borders. That’s what’s happening in Morocco. That’s what’s happening in Algeria.

Also, in Tunisia, sometimes it’s happening, that people are just caught and just driven with a bus. They have no right to ask for asylum or anything, they are just taken by a bus and left at the border, and asked to leave the country. So that’s one practice that’s happening on land borders.

And then we also see it on land borders between, for example, Serbia and Hungary, and countries like this. So you cross the border, there is the police waiting for you, you get beaten up and sent back the way you came. So no medical assistance, nothing, you have no right to nothing. That’s on the level of the land borders.

Then in the water, it’s basically – we see it a lot in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece where boats arrive in Greek water. But then the Greek coast guards would come and push, like, literally, they would tie the boat with a rope and pull it back to Turkish water and leave it there. Or they would wait for the Turkish coast guards to come and pick them up.

And that’s a practice that we have been documenting. We had videos and calls from people who were on these boats. We had people who were, sometimes the Coast Guard, they’re not doing it in a very friendly way. They would use violence. We had people who got shot in these boats. Sometimes they would just destroy the engine of the boat and let the people drift. They would stab, if it’s a rubber boat, they would stab the boat, so it has holes and people cannot move on. And they would also be left there, or just pushed a bit to the Turkish waters.

We have documented cases where people are in Greek waters, but after just some time they’re suddenly in Turkish waters. And this has been happening for ages and now it’s even more and more aggressive and more violent – and also with no shame. They don’t even try to hide it. Frontex is watching. We have boats monitoring what’s going on and NGOs and they witness this and they’re like, “Yeah, but that’s how it is.”

KILLA
Exactly. I think also it shifted from some years. Because I remember, I think it was maybe two years ago, there was still a discussion about it. I think there was an article where the headline was, “should we rescue or let it drown?” It was exactly about this. And there was this, yeah, I don’t know, mainstream debate, how we are at this point of talking about if we basically let people die in front of our eyes. And I mean, we are not at this point anymore. I mean, it is, yeah.

SYRINE
Yeah. Maybe a bit on the Libyan Italy side, it’s also the same practice. That people – the distance is much longer, people need much more time, and spend up to three days, five days, in the water in boats that are already broken with no water, no food.

And the rescue, for example, from Malta or Italy, it’s just not coming to rescue people. They would just give the coordinates to the Libyan coast guards and wait for them to come pick up the people. And we also witnessed cases where people were pushed back to Libya, where Libya is war zone and there is no even minimum – people are just put in detention, or kidnapped by militias and stuff, and they get brought back to Libya.

And the rescue authorities, they just refuse to act. They just say, “no, it’s the Libyan Coast Guard’s responsibility” and Libyan coast guards were trained by Europe. There is no such thing as Libyan coast guard – the thing doesn’t exist, or it exists, but it’s just a picture. And then it was funded and trained by the European Union and Frontex – to train the people on how to do rescue operations. And we have seen the number of rescue operations that failed by the Libyan coast guard. There were shootings, there were people falling into the water, there have been many accidents that show that no … and also people should not be brought back to a war zone. They should be taken to the next safest harbor and this should be in Italy or in Malta.

KILLA
Also what we wanted to know is, these politics that you are now describing, what impact do they have on the situation here, especially in Germany?

SYRINE
I think the first impact would be that people – it’s harder for them to arrive. So it’s almost like mission impossible to arrive in Germany. And then with the EU regulation, if you landed in Greece, or somewhere else before, you will probably get deported back because of the Dublin convention.

So it’s made more and more difficult to even arrive in Germany, for example. And then even if you arrive, you’re immediately almost sent back. That’s a way to control migration. And then the only people who are welcome, between parenthesis is, okay, you need to fill certain criterias, apply for a visa and Germany would take you because you would bring in something.

But for other people, it’s complete shutdown at the borders. So people have to take more risky routes and do really extreme things in order to manage to arrive. They are more subject to violence, abuse, and all sorts of things that could happen when somebody is crossing a border. And then if you have to do it in a more dangerous way, it just makes the risks higher.

Then you arrive and you have to face the German asylum system that is already like, “Okay, why are you here in the first place?” It’s just a continuous struggle. It affects people on all levels, even the integrity of the people, their mental health, their health, their sanity. Just after being through all these struggles, arriving to Germany thinking, “Oh, now I can apply for asylum and I can have a safe status.” But no, it just started at another level. People are just struggling a lot.

KILLA
Okay, thank you so much for your input, really. It is so important to hear this. Because I think it is, not even any more, but it was always a tactic of invisibilization also in Germany here with the lagers being pushed to isolated places. And so yeah….

SYRINE
Yeah, definitely and also with this Corona thing now that, “Oh, that should be the focus.” But no, migration never stops, and these movements are happening, and people have so much power and are crossing the borders and arriving in Europe. But what happens to them after this arrival is just put to the side and in Germany, like 2015, “Yay refugees welcome!” and blah, and thinking “okay, now it’s over.” No, it’s not and it’s never over. And also how are these refugees you welcome some time ago, like where are they? How are they doing? So it’s a continuous everyday thing.

KILLA
Thank you so much. We asked you also, like we do with everybody, to pick a song. Maybe you can introduce it?

SYRINE
Yeah, I picked the song Somos Sur. And it translates to, ‘We are the South, we are South’. I really like this song because it has these… it brings up the struggles of people from the global South. And I think this migration struggle is one of them, or one major part of them, and that the struggles are in different places. But somehow they also can come together and we need to somehow also be in solidarity together with the different struggles. So maybe some things can change.

KILLA
Thank you so much.

SYRINE
Thank you.

 

[SONG: Ana Tijoux ft. Shadia Monsour – Somos Sur]

 

JENNIFER
With this program, we also wanted to connect what’s happening to migrants at the borders, in Greece, in Turkey, with what’s happening here in Germany. So I’m very happy that we have Christina from Women* in Exile in the studio with us to continue the conversation.

We are going also to talk about the situation of women in the asylum system, in Germany, in Greece, in Italy, in Malta, who have been in a lockdown for all their lives. And the purpose is to keep them invisible and make their lives miserable. So they fall into depression, and drive them to suicide, or accept deportation back to the countries where they come from.

In this context, we want to compare it with the current situation of the lockdown. That now everyone is in a hullabaloo about the second Corona lockdown. These feelings of being deprived, controlled, limited on their movement, not being able to celebrate holidays and gather and gatherings, feeling isolated and depressed, which are new for white people – this is what is normal for women in the heims.

So once we have finally been able to have something to share emotions with this Corona pandemic. And with this, I would like to introduce our guest and ask our first question just to understand, what is the history of Women* in Exile? How have you been organizing? And what made you form this group of Women* in Exile?

CHRISTINA
Thank you, Jennifer, for having me. My name is Christina like you’ve heard I’m from Women* in Exile & Friends. Women* in Exile was formed in 2002 by refugee women in Brandenburg who felt the need to fight for their rights. And these rights were the right to have good housing, like abolish all the lagers. The right to work and study in Germany. The right to have adequate health for all. The right for free choice of residence. The right to have freedom of movement. And also there was fighting against racism and sexism, discrimination, and they were also fighting to stop the deportations.

Since then, there was a challenge because there were just refugee women living in the isolated lagers, and there was no way to come out. So it was really difficult but with the strength to come together, they were able to be out there and connect with the society, get loud, and make the society outside of the lager know what’s going on inside the lager. In 2011, that’s when they were able to gain more support, more friends, more solidarity, and the name changed from women*, only Women* in Exile, but Women* in Exile & Friends. These friends are all the supporters, all the people in solidarity with these people. That’s how it was formed to be Women* in Exile & friends.

JENNIFER
Maybe just to ask you a question: was it only women from Brandenburg? Was it only women with children or women without children? What was it consisted of and how was it able to bring the women together?

CHRISTINA
Yeah, normally this was the women in Brandenburg. Because normally when you ask for asylum in Germany, they post you in different regions, according to where you came from. The women in Brandenburg mostly come from Cameroon and Kenya, and other different countries.

But the women who started Women in Exile were from Kenya and Cameroon, but later conjoined with other women from Afghanistan and later gained momentum all over and were able to connect with all refugee women. And the reason was that they felt like they were really discriminated or really denied the right as human beings, and also they were denied their right as women. They thought they needed to come together and try to fight against all these discrimination and fight for their rights – to be out loud there, to be heard.

JENNIFER
Yeah, I can imagine just how much effort it was to try to be visible in circumstances which were very dehumanizing. We acknowledge this power that Women* in Exile have had over the 20 years. We recognize that and we respect that.

Now this brings us back to our second question on the externalization of the borders and the deals with Turkey, Libya, Nigeria, and maybe soon, Sudan. How have these impacted the situation of refugee women here in Germany?

CHRISTINA
Yeah, it has a huge impact because most of the refugee women – I would say most of them – traveled through the water in the Mediterranean. And they were supposed to come to Europe and also to connect with other families who may be anywhere in Europe. This has also contributed to family separation because we know that there are some refugees who were supposed to come, some refugee women, who were supposed to come and meet their spouses, on the other side of the water. But it’s not possible because of the externalization of the borders. So we can see, it’s actually dividing families.

Also, when there are these push backs, the push backs are really not a good idea. It’s like sending people to the same thing they’re running from: war, the torture, everything. And we felt like really it’s the worst deal, and it’s a real humanitarian crisis.

JENNIFER
Could you maybe expand on what happens when people are pushed to these externalized borders?

CHRISTINA
Yeah, actually, the results comes back to… sometimes we hear of death. People who didn’t make it, maybe they committed suicide, or they lost hope and just did anything, they felt like it’s enough with this life. And also, when they reach to where they are being pushed back – I’ll give an example of Libya. They always go through a harsh treatment, torture, murder. And also we know there is organ harvesting in Libya. We’ve seen on social media how migrants who were sent back to Libya were tortured and all their organs were being sold.

Also, there were a lot of cases for rape, and modern day slavery. We can say, it’s really not the best place to be, also because we know there’s no asylum system there. We know these deals – it’s all about money. We know, all these African countries are corrupt, and they’re all interested in the money that is coming from Europe. But it’s really not helping the refugees who are sent back.

On the other hand, we know the Europeans, all they care about is the the goods from Africa. They can let them come inside Europe freely, but they don’t want to see the bodies or the human beings from there. So I would say it’s shameful corrupted governments, on two sides, which are selfish, and really don’t care about humanitarianism at all.

JENNIFER
Yeah, this thing of Africa being totally corrupt, and yet, the corruption that is perpetrated by the European states is never spoken about. It is something that has very deep repercussions on the African people themselves.

We will take a short break and we will listen to a song called Jailer from Asa, a Nigerian award winning songwriter and musician. It’s a very powerful song because it relates to very different circumstances. We are all prisoners. We are all jailed. So she continues to say, “I am jailed but you who is also my jailer is also jailed.” This is very strong.

 

[SONG: Aṣa – Jailer]

 

JENNIFER
Yeah, that was a very powerful song by Asa. She says, “I have fears, you have fears, too. I will die. But you yourself will die too.” So that makes us all equal. Thank you for the powerful song.

Christine, we continue with our conversation about the the work of Women* in Exile, which we find, we are still going to say it again, that we really appreciate and recognize the work you have done over the years.

This comes back to the to the question of how has your work developed during the 20 years that Women* in Exile has existed? And how did it change according to the changes in the German asylum law?

I would say the group has grown from being a small group of women to a bigger, wider group of every woman of all walks of life. Like I said, we have all types of women, I can’t forget to say, again, there is lesbian, there is queer, there is trans. And we conjoined together now, not only with the refugee women, but also with our friends and supporters.

CHRISTINA
Mainly we’ve seen some developments, like we were able to track the most isolated women in the most isolated lagers: going to visit the heims, trying to break the isolation, inviting these women to come out and meet with other women and get encouraged to know that they are not alone – that what they are going through so many years ago, there are other women who went through the same thing and came out as winners.

So it’s about a fight, we don’t need to just stay there defeated but we must fight together, and we must support each other. That’s how we were able to bring more isolated women from inside isolated lagers to the open, and being able to educate them about their rights: the rights they have as women and also the right they have as refugees.

We are able also to connect with them and make them be very open. Most of them have problems that they’re afraid to share with people. But once they start mingling with other women, they feel free to talk, and that way we are able to direct them to where they can get the help they need.

We have also discovered there is a lot of mental health problems due to isolation and this is the worst thing because we’ve also discovered when they’re in the heims, they are not allowed to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist. And we are able to show them that this is their right and they are supposed to have this right to see a psychologist.

Sometimes we also found that it’s a big problem also to see a gynecologist or to go for women’s body checkup. And this also we’ve tried – we’ve developed to try to encourage them, work together with them to direct them where to see a gynecologist and be able to know about their bodies. We’ve done workshops to educate them about women’s bodies.

We came across some women who were having cancer but they didn’t know. But after going for checkups, they realized they had this problem and it was taken care of before it was worse. This is a huge development because once you are able to advise women and encourage them to face it and be able to fight for their rights, like body checkups, that’s a huge development.

Another thing is we are able to get louder through the demos and events that we do all the time. This has made us able to connect with other feminists groups, not only in Berlin but also around Germany. So far, we’ve done a boat tour. We’ve done some bus tours, like three or so bus tours.

The events that we do have really connected us with other groups, which allows us to be able to fight together, as feminist groups, and support one another, and be able to fight these battles, which not only refugee women are going through but all women in the world.

JENNIFER
Lastly, we are able to advise women on the importance of learning the language. Because once you know the language, it’s easy for you to communicate. We’ve discovered there’s a lot of discrimination in the language. Because when you don’t understand the language, you can go to any office and you can be pushed back or told lies.

CHRISTINA
We’ve had women who confessed in Eisenhüttenstadt: they went to see the gynecologist there and because of the language and (lack of) communication, there was a problem and they ended up with their uterus being removed. They were told, you need to remove the uterus. And they said, the problem of the language made them accept these things because they thought they were really sick – only to discover that it’s like a game, which was going on there to make the women remove their uterus because they didn’t want them to give birth.

We later realized, we need to let these women at least learn a little language to understand what’s going on. Because you understand when they’re in the lagers, it’s not possible to get Dolmetscher [interpreter]. So it’s good to have a little bit of knowledge on communication then you don’t have to go through some of the problems that they go through.

JENNIFER
Yeah, that’s really a lot of work. And when you talk about women having to make decisions about their bodies – and they just don’t know what decisions they are making. Those are very serious crimes that the doctors are taking. That’s the breaking of basic … How do you call it? The doctors really take too much power over other people’s bodies. This is breaking the agreement that doctors have to protect, to safeguard. I don’t know how to put it.

The topic of women’s wombs being taken out has also been a big topic that people don’t talk about. How we are denied the right to decide whether we want to have children or not to have children – is something that is completely taken away from us. One, because of the violence of the language, and the racism of the doctors. This is just exactly what you have projected.

Also to add on our development, I don’t want to forget about all of the supporters we’ve gained. Through these supporters and friends, and everybody who feels like … the work of Women* in Exile is seen out there, and they give us support in donations, or whenever we need to do a demo, we see a huge support of people.

CHRISTINA
Normally, this is a huge development and I wouldn’t like to not mention it because it’s an achievement when you have a lot of supporters. Recently, we launched our magazine. It was a huge development and it was a success.

Also, before the lockdown, we managed to have our own space, just through the supporters, the donors and the donations that we get from the donors. So we can’t forget that. All our supporters are very important. We love all of them. We are happy to work with them and we are looking forward to working in the future with them. We know our main goal of good housing has not been met but we keep on the fire.

JENNIFER
Yeah, that’s great.

Now, we go back to this day of the 25th of November. I saw that you had made a statement against a journalist from the rbb, Marie Stumpf. It struck me why someone would, on this particular day, the day against violence on women, a journalist would do exactly the same with her pen and paper. She would do the same: violate the rights of women. Can you just expound a bit on what happened on this day?

First, I want to say it’s a big shame to see a woman violating this same fight that we are fighting for. Because as a woman, she was supposed to support this fight. But we think she went ahead and got out of the context. I would say she was trying to steal the moment. And it was all about her.

CHRISTINA
We realized, before the demo started, we gave her the chance to do an interview. But I felt like it’s not about the reporter. It’s about what work we are there to do. And I think also stopping the demo from starting because she’s doing her interview was not a good idea, because normally, she can do interviews elsewhere, away from the demo.

But anyway, on this day, we got some disappointments from the beginning because we were pushed away by the police. As we registered the demo, we were supposed to be 50 meters from the gate. But when we arrived there, they wanted us to be 200 meters from the gate, where nobody could hear us, where nobody could see us. Only the trees were around.

But finally, we were able to fight for our rights and we were able to go 50 meters from the gate. This is where we saw Marie Stumpf was really trying to steal the show. After the interview, she went ahead to speak with the police and was laughing with them. Later she was allowed to go inside the lager and do some interviews without our knowledge.

JENNIFER
She went to talk with Ausländerbehörde and the … people.

CHRISTINA
Yeah, at this time she she stopped being a reporter and maybe she became an investigator, because she went inside to investigate what was happening. Why we went to Eisenhüttenstadt is because we heard complaints about the sexual abuse of women, and of lesbian women. This is the problem that we had gone there to face because we wanted justice for the rape cases that happened there to be addressed – it seemed like it was just ignored.

From the Eisenhüttenstadt officials, it looked like the women are just like that, it’s their fault. When Marie went inside the lager, she came back with the same report as the officials inside the lager. She wrote like, “Oh, it was the women’s fault that they had a party with the men.” But the party was for everybody, not only for men.

So we had a question to Marie Stumpf, “has she ever lived in a place where she’s locked down? All you see are some strangers or people who have the same problems as you, and you are all not in a position to help each other? For this case, does it mean being a lesbian, you’re not supposed to mingle or talk with other people? Does she justify rape because somebody went to party with men?” As a woman it’s a shameful thing for her to say and to support this victim blaming. We think it’s really disgusting to see a woman reporting such a thing on the women’s day against violence.

JENNIFER
I will say it again, it is disgusting. Just the way you have said it. This thing about the journalist is really, really, really annoying. What other challenges are you facing as a refugee women’s group?

CHRISTINA
Normally we know very well, every group, which is successful, also has its critics. Marie is one of them, I should say so because out there, what she did was to criticize our work. Also we have a lot of other challenges like we’ve been, for a long time, trying to break the harsh asylum system laws. But it’s been a huge challenge and we keep on fighting about it. Also, we didn’t acquire our goal of abolishing all lagers and campaigning for better housing for mostly women and children. But we keep fighting until this, really, will come into a reality.

Mainly, these are the challenges that we feel like we still, for all these years, the 20 years, we’ve been fighting for these two main things but it’s been a challenge. But we keep on fighting.

JENNIFER
Yeah, we have no option. We have to keep fighting. Thank you very much for being with us in the studio and for sharing your predicaments, your success, your challenges, your victories with us. We are still going to say again, we are very proud of you. We know the work that you do is very important. And with that, we will end our part with the song from Aretha Franklin, Respect, because respect is all that we are asking for.

 

[SONG: Aretha Franklin – Respect]

 

KILLA
Okay, so thank you, again, Syrine and Christina, for both of your important inputs and for being here with us today. So this is the end of our 10th program. We will take a short break for the end of the year but we will come back.

So yes, thank you, Syrine, for talking about the policies and practices that the EU, with Germany as one of the main actors in it, is doing to externalize the borders and to further and further push migrants out and the deals connected to it.

Then also, thank you very much, Christina, for talking about how these policies influence the situation here and how the isolation continues in Germany. Also, I think, Christina you made very clear, the importance of self organizing when you talk about the work that Women* in Exile does in order to fight against this horrible system, the European and also the German asylum system. So yes, let’s talk a bit more about the self organizing, maybe you want to start, Jennifer.

JENNIFER 
Yeah, maybe with a reflection on what Christina and Syrine have given us, it takes me back to the time of the Oranienplatz movement, and the need that there was to start a self organized, refugee protest. At this time, we were also still fighting for the same things also: the Residentzpflicht, the voucher system, the right to a work permit, the isolation, right to study the German language, freedom of movement, generally.

These were some of the things that were at the forefront in the time O-platz. It was not only fighting for these things that were dehumanizing factors in the asylum process, which affect all people applying for asylum. The most important part is that it brought the visibility of the black people in Germany.

We see that before that, there was this feeling that black people were only supposed to be hidden somewhere. We were like a wound that was supposed to be covered somewhere, not visible. But coming to a very central place in Kreuzberg Berlin, and protesting from that point, this soreness of our blackness was broken. So people began to see a different perspective. We got over that soreness. That was so important. And out of this self organization from the Oranienplatz movement came so many more self organized groups as a result of this.

KILLA
Like we are here in this space today.

JENNIFER
Exactly, like we are here in this space today: We are born free. The people also were very engaged in the times of Oranienplatz. This is so powerful to see how many forces have come out of a movement.

We also need to acknowledge that also before us there were people who were protesting, like the VOICE and the Caravan, who we need to acknowledge the work they have done over the years. And it is a continuation to protest.

KILLA
Exactly.

I think also what both Syrine and Christina said, that this isolation is such a powerful practice to do. I think I would focus again on these Corona times: that now this isolation – the Corona pandemic was the perfect excuse to keep this lockdown, to keep this isolation with the legitimation of a law.

I want to mention, again, the Lager Reports that have been going on for a long time, that exactly exposed all of this brutality and this inhumanity when Germany claims to be this human rights nation. Like they said before, this is a cornerstone of German foreign policy, as we said in the introduction. But to expose this absolute inhumanity that the lager system is, that the asylum system is, that the push backs and the deportations are, especially during this Corona time. I mean, they have been deporting the whole time.

JENNIFER
Yeah, they’re using these times of isolation to facilitate the deportations. They have become so rampant. It’s in this situation of lockdown where people are not even aware of what is happening that they have effected the act of deportation. It brings us now to the discussion of what happened in the time of Oranienplatz – and where we are now and how Germany is forming alliances. Maybe you could mention these alliances.

KILLA
Syrine said a lot – we were talking a lot about these dirty deals that Germany is doing, is trying to do, and to date, this creation of this trust fund. Basically, this worked very well during the corona pandemic because these alliances mean that it is easier to deport.

I mean, they get money, the countries get money, and then they help with this [by], I don’t know, issuing the papers that are needed for deportation, keeping basically migrants from coming to the EU and therefore to Germany. Germany is very well in doing this. They have been – they are talking to a lot of countries, they have made deals with a lot of countries. We asked ourselves what our role would be in it. What we can do because they are forming alliances so …

JENNIFER
Yeah, we have to really up our game now. With the new situation of Turkey [potentially] pulling out of the Istanbul convention, this makes it more difficult for us because the Istanbul convention was the only convention that … this has been the only hope for women to get protection from gender-based violence.

But what we are seeing is not only the pulling out from the convention, but also Germany has found a way to reintroduce the Residentzpflicht and the voucher system, which were things we were so loud about and we had fought for and managed to change. What we have to do now, we can’t only be self organized, but we have to go to the next level of also forming alliances with other countries across and beyond borders.

KILLA
So with this, we come to the end of our last program for this year and the next year we will continue with more programs about the topics that we just talked about and focus more.

Folgt in Kürze!

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