You are a liberal thinker. You are used to share your opinion without fear. You are content about your job, you make a valuable contribution to society.
Now imagine this.
The economic crisis spins out of control. Government crumbles. Fear takes over. Religious right wing fundamentalists grab power, and they try to re-establish order by force. They come after you. You are a danger to them. To save yourself, you have to leave everything behind. You have to flee. You have to risk your life to cross the sea in crowded boats in order to reach the free world.
You are lucky. You survive. You end up in a country far away from home. You don’t speak the language. How would you want to be treated?
Do you want to be locked up in an isolation camp? Do you want to wait for months or even years, living in fear that the government sends you back to the nutcases that took over your country? Do you want to be denied language classes and other tools to integrate? Do you want to be denied psychological support?
Last February an Iranian refugee committed suicide in an immigration camp in Würzburg, Germany. It led to enduring demonstrations against the inhumane treatment of immigrants by the German government. It was the start of a German Spring that went almost completely unnoticed by national and international media. I’ll give you a brief update.
In March, a dozen Iranian immigrants went on hunger strike. They demanded the end of all deportations, plus their recognition as political refugees, plus the end of the ‘obligation of residence’ which limits the immigrants’ right of movement in blatant violation of European law, plus the closure of all isolation camps.
Some but not all of the Iranian immigrants from Würzburg got their residence accepted. Others went on hungerstrike in April, sowing up their mouths. The local government was so impressed that they tried to ban the protest by law.
In summer, the protest began to spread over the rest of Germany. Inspired by the Occupy movement, immigrants started camping in places like Bamberg, Düsseldorf, Regensbürg and Osnabrück.
“We want to work, we are educated, engineers, nurses, all the occupations that are needed here. We don’t want to live off charity, we want to build up our own lives in safety and peace – just like all the other people in Germany.”
When they reached the border with former East-Germany, they tore up their provisional identity papers, and marched on, defying their ‘obligation of residence’ in Bavaria.
Along the way, they have been offered food, shelter and solidarity by local citizens, authorities and churches. The police did not interfere with the march. In Thüringen, however, they were met by neo-nazis of the NPD looking for a confrontation. Police intervened and made sure that the march could safely continue.
On October 6, some 170 marchers reached Berlin, of whom 100 sympathisers. They put up their base camp on the Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg. A week later, 6000 people attended a protest for immigrants’ rights. On the same day they launched their manifesto on the Internet.
“We, refugees, have ceased to be victims. […] We are actively taking part in the social struggles of Germany, and shoulder to shoulder with all who are here we are fighting for a free and humane society.”
On October 15, the immigrants occupied the Nigerian embassy, to protest against deportations based on voice recognition. It’s a common practice of the embassy to interrogate people who don’t possess identification, and to determine their native land on the basis of their dialect, so that they can be sent back. The German government collaborates.
In Frankfurt am Main, a protest camp was built up on October 20. Similar actions have been held lately in Vienna and The Hague, if only to show that the rest of Europe doesn’t treat its immigrants any better than the Germans do. On October 24, the demonstrators stepped up their offensive. They occupied the Pariser Platz in front of the Brandenburg Gate and went on hunger strike. It has been raining and freezing. And police have been harassing them continuously, taking away blankets, umbrella’s and slogans. But they are still there. Their spirit is strong. They have learned how to suffer, both at home and over here.
Check out the occupation of the Brandenburger Tor, live on Bambuser
Also check the collaborative pad of the Pirate Party on the protests.