You can´t evict a movement – freedom of residence for everyone!
For about eighteen months the former Gerhart-Hauptmann-school at Ohlauer Straße in Berlin´s Kreuzberg neighborhood has been occupied by refugees from different countries. But on the 24th of June the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg initiated the eviction of the school´s inhabitants. With 900 policemen, some of them heavily armed, the peaceful occupants have been forced to ‘leave voluntarily’. Some of them have been brought to special accommodations on the periphery of Berlin. Others, who were not inside the school at the time of the forced relocation are homeless now. They have been refused the right to stay in the state-run mass accommodations designated for asylum seekers.
But this is not all: when the eviction started, some 40 inhabitants of the school fled to the roof of the building, threatening to jump from the roof and to end their life in case the eviction were to continue. Since then, the police have closed not only the Hauptmann-school, but an entire block of buildings in Kreuzberg with road barriers and checkpoints. Peaceful protesters supporting the refugees were attacked with pepper spray and clubs, many refugees have been taken into custody for hours. Now, everyone who wants to cross the police barriers in Kreuzberg needs to present ID, the neighbors living inside this police-controlled zone are allowed to enter their home only with a police escort, walking them up to their doors. At the same time, in the occupied school building, the protesting refugees are provoked by the police forces surrounding them. The strategy seems to be: psychological intimidation to prepare for the final eviction of the remaining protesters on the roof. This brutal, almost military and completely unjustified operation of the police is nothing but a scandal.
But thanks to several days of day and night presence of activists from the Oranienplatz, inhabitants of the school building, ordinary neighbors and numerous people from Berlin the situation has now gained international attention.
The protesting refugees from the Hauptmann-school at Ohlauer Straße are part of a political movement with a distinct cause. The so called „Residenzpflicht“, a German law that denies freedom of movement to asylum seekers, the German authorities´ systematic rejection of their reasons to flee and migrate to Europe, the internment in isolated camps – all this makes a refugee´s life in Germany a misery. The refugees, often traumatized by the situation in their home countries, often have to suffer from this condition for years, in some cases more than a decade. Both the occupation of the former Hauptmann-school in 2012 and the protest-camp at Kreuzberg´s Oranienplatz shortly before were no ends in themselves. The political cause was to create a space, where refugees could articulate and promote their demands for a humane treatment by the German authorities.
The Government of the City of Berlin, the Senat, has broke promises that were made when the refugees´ protest camp at Oranienplatz was evicted in April 2014. It was promised by the Senat that the refugees claims for political asylum from the camp would be examined case by case, and that during this time every asylum-seeking refugee would get a temporary residence permnt (a so called „Duldung„) for six months. In addition, the refugees were promised access to the labor market and to education programs. But none of these promises have been realized and more than ten of the affected refugees got instead an official notification that they will be deported in the near future.
The people in the school have learned their lessons from Oranienplatz. They do not trust the offers made by the Senat or the local government of the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district. They know: if they agree on a “voluntary relocation” their future will be individualization, isolation and deportation.
The conflicts around Oranizenplatz and the occupation of the former Hauptmann-school are symptoms of the brutal regime that we call „Fortress Europe“: an unjust and unequal economic order in which the export-oriented nation of Germany has a major stake which causes conflicts about migration, and these conflicts are „solved“ by police measures at the borders of the European Union – and, if necessary also here, in the middle of Berlin.
It’s time to change this asylum policy, on local and regional level. The Berlin City Government, the Senat, could take the first step in changing things. The Senat has the power to end this local conflict and bring a humane solution.
We demand that the Senat actually use its legal powers to grant the protesting refugees a residence permit. § 23 of the German law on asylum says, that for „humanitarian reasons“ a state government has the option to grant residence permits to either „groups from specific states“ or „otherwise defined groups of persons of foreign nationality“.
We demand that the local government (Bezirksverordnetenversammlung) of the Berlin district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg should not ignore the protest and self-organization of the Berlin refugees. Conflicts cannot be „solved“ from above with police measures.
We support the demands of the refugees:
to get a secure residence permit for all associated refugees from Oranienplatz and from the Gerhart-Hauptmann-school in accord with paragraph 23.
the construction of new accommodations for homeless refugees, meaning new group accomodations or a system of decentralized appartments.
access to the labor market, to education, healthcare and democratic participation in general.