The subsequent report together with that of a delgation from Hamburg "Delegationsreise nach Thüringen..." was presented at the conference "Unite against colonial injustice" held in Jena between the 9th and 13th of September 2009.
Delegation visit of the isolation Lagers in Gerstungen and Gangloffsömmern
Report of a two-day journey of a delegation of the caravan network from Wuppertal
On June 27 and 28, 2009 we - a delegation of the network of the CARAVAN for the rights of the refugees and migrants from Wuppertal as well as members of THE VOICE Refugee Forum from Jena and refugees from Apolda - visited the isolation Lagers in Gerstungen and Gangloffsömmern in Thuringia. This delegation visit is the beginning of a row of further visits of the isolation camps located in Thuringia and lasts up to the action conference „united against the continuation of colonial injustice in Germany “, which is organized in September 2009 in Jena, Thuringia. In the following we document the experiences of the first visit.
Arrival in Gerstungen
On June 27, 2009 at about 4:30 p.m. we drove altogether from Jena to Apolda in order to drive direction Gerstungen together with refugee activists of two isolation Lagers. Gerstungen lies in the west of Thuringia at the motorway A4, in the Werratal, in the district Wartburg. Shortly after Eisenach the motorway forms the border between Thuringia and Hessen. A sign at the motorway tells of the fact that one lefts Thuringia. Shortly after the exit Gerstungen comes. We take the exit and arrive at Untersuhl. Untersuhl is a small village bordering on Gerstungen. Obersuhl, the neighbour village, lies some hundred meters further in the west and already lies in Hessen.
In Untersuhl we take one of the roads at the edge of the city and arrive at the Lager. The building resembles from a distance many other camps which we have already seen: neglected, many satellite dishes as one of the few connections to the world outside. At the entrance sits a doorman who wants to see a document of identification. An acquaintance shows its document of identification, the name is noted and we to go into the yard. In front of the house we see about ten cats sitting there all with a view on the kitchen and wait for a “Happen” which might come flown down. Behind the house is a row of garages.
Many of the former and current inhabitants perpetuated themselves here through wall sayings at the garage gates in different languages. „Everyone sees my laughter through “stands there written, probably a cry of a young person from the isolation experienced in the Lager.
In the entrance zone in the house we become acquainted with the prohibitions: “The course tracks may not be crossed”. It is forbidden by the police and dangerous and in addition a fine threatens. Further we learn that in Gerstungen floor checks are accomplished: „In order to avoid problems around the next cash dispensing, announce yourselves once daily at the guard!! “Both prohibitions are translated into German, English and French. According to what the inhabitants say about 80 persons live in the home. Those which we met come from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, Sierra Leone, Syria. They hardly speak one of the West European languages. At the notices we also learn something about the health care. Each person must pay part of the travel expenses for doctor visits. In the month this can amount to 6,71Euro per person. Appropriate forms are needed in order to confirm the physician visit. All tickets etc. must be presented to the social office. For visits at specialized doctors a certificate of treatment must be fetched at the social office.
Subsequently, we go into the kitchen in the ground floor. At the moment three Azerbaijani refugees and some Iranians are cooking. The kitchen has three rinses without tray surface on the left side. On the right side are the cookers. The walls are hopeless and the trashy lemonade advertisements from the beginning of the 20th century at the wall don´t not make it look more beautiful.
We sit down in the room of an aserian refugee and talk with him and some others. Presence controls are daily. If someone does not stay in the Lager for two weeks he or she is unregistered. Nearly everyone in the Lager receives coupons at a value of 126 euros. Many receive no cash at all. The foreign authority district Wartburg is in ´Bad Salzungen´, about 30 km south of Untersuhl. The trip there and back alone costs 6 euros. The tolerances of residence (Duldung) are usually issued for 6 months.
Freedom restriction by residence obligation law (Residenzpflicht)
One of the aserian refugees told us that he wants to visit his child. However, this is refused by the foreign authority on account of the Residenzpflicht law. Once, one of the two social workers from the Lager called the foreign authority to describe the problem, the foreign authority of the administrative district Wartburg replied: „Nevertheless, it is all the same to me whether he has a child or not, he should be deported anyway.“ Two other young aserian men tell us that they made purchases at Rewe in Obersuhl. There they were controlled in front of the supermarket by police officers. Now a punishment of 40 Euros threatens them. Each of them has received a letter from the police of Eisenach. Later, a father of a family, Kurd from Syria, tells us that he had to pay fines already twice because of Residenzpflicht. The first time 40 Euros and 95 Euros the second time. The Residenzpflicht is one of the main problems in Gerstungen. Since it is situated directly at the border to Hessen, the refugees of the isolation Lager in Untersuhl, Gerstungen, have direction north, west and south a movement radius of 1000 meters. In the north is the motorway A4, in the south the course tracks whose exceeding is forbidden. Practically they can just move to Untersuhl, Gerstungen and eastward. This restriction in a small district is particularly absurd in united Europe without borders and makes clear that after the law two classes of humans exist in Europe; for the one class there are no borders, for the other one each district can become an obstacle and limits them in their freedom. Felix Otto sits behind the bars in Thuringia for his natural right on freedom of movement.
Besides the freedom restriction the Residenzpflicht has further material, health and residence legal consequences for the refugees from Gerstungen. Since they can not go shopping to Obersuhl, they sometimes must drive with public transport to the next localities and pay 4 Euros additionally from the little money which is at their disposal each month. The dentist in Gerstungen refuses the treatment of the refugees because the welfare agency does not pay enough for the treatment of the refugees. In Gerstungen and Untersuhl no refugee´s aid offices like Caritas and Diakonie exist to which the refugees could address their problems.
We spoke with several families and unmarried people in the second floor. A woman from Aserbaidschan told us that she was threatened by deportation. She already had to experience many deportations in the daybreak here and has fear to be deported herself. Her man died in the Lager. Now she lives there alone with their child. She does not know how she is to get along in Azerbaijan alone.
We spoke with a Kurdish family from Syria. The parents and their four children live together. They have been living in Germany for seven years. They would actually like to get away from this isolation Lager immediately. The 20-year-old daughter told us her heart has become black here. The sons are 19 and 17 years old. The latest child is their 7-years old daughter. The family feels restricted in the rooms. The older brothers and sisters share a room. The daughter and the brothers must come to an arrangement not to injure the intimate sphere of each other. One of the sons suffers from an illness which is caused by the accommodation at the Lager according to the treating doctor. Not to strike at school, he must take a shower every morning before the school. However, at six o'clock in the morning there is not enough warm water in the Lager. The oldest daughter does not feel fine at the Lager among single men. When going to the bath she is accompanied by her mother. All of the children had to watch the police action which was directed against a refugee. More than 300 policemen came, helicopters circled and all rooms were searched. The children and also others still seem traumatised of it.
The applications for a rearrangement all fail because the family does not present a passport to the foreign authority. The fact that the Kurds in Syria receive no rights, not even a birth certificate, apparently does not interest the authorities. Since the agreement over deportation with the Syrian government Germany has increasingly started to deport Syrian people to Syria.
The young men from Azerbaijan and the Kurdish family from Syria had cooked. We ate in a room together with other home inhabitants. We exchanged and became acquainted. After midnight, after having eaten together we leave Untersuhl, Gerstungen direction Apolda and Jena and sorrow remains. It is the same feeling which speeds us up every day. It is the injustice which is daily carried out no matter where in the world and which gnaws at us permanently… It is the conviction and the fury which grow stronger in us and drives us to remove everything which restricts, limits and destroys us. It is the determination to change in order to build up a world which is made by humans for humans. A world in which we are not dictated by an abstract market und that splits us in countries and borders, in religions and genders for the interests of others.
Visit at Gangloffsömmern
In the morning, on Sunday the 28th of June 2009, we drove from Jena to Apolda in order to drive with the friends from Apolda to Gangolffsömmern. Gangloffsömmern is a municipality in the district of Sömmerda in Thuringia. It belongs to the central administrative body of Straußfurt. The village consists of beautiful small houses embedded into a beautiful landscape. On this beautiful summer day we looked for the Lager. We finally found the lane and turned into it from the main street. Behind the first house front which was very beautiful a large, for years not reconditioned, run down building hid itself in the second row. A friend of THE VOICE appropriately meant: „Such looks a ghetto in the middle of a village!“ We stepped into the yard and there already waited a man. A Kurd from Iraq. Others came and in the yard we spoke about life in Gangolffsömmern.
While we were speaking three other Kurdish refugees came out of the building and after we had welcomed and introduced ourselves they walked in the court. We had the feeling as if these were prisoners who were walking in the court.
More than 20 refugees live in the Lager. They come from Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, Chechnya and Vietnam. Most are single men. However, there are also two women living there with their children.
„One gets crazy here!“ said a Kurd who is not there for long yet. The refugees in Gangloffsömmern also receive vouchers and about 10 to 40 Euros in cash. However, in the village there is no shopping possibility. The next supermarket is in Straußfurt. The tickets there cost two Euros, i.e. for every purchase 4 Euros must be additionally considered. It maybe does not sound a lot for some people at first sight but with a monthly available sum of 130 to 140 Euros every Euro has another value. In Gangloffsömmern the rooms in the Lager are for three to four refugees. The refugees cannot make a lot of purchases at once because then they have no space in the single fridge in the room.
In the village there are neither social workers nor some caricative, church advisory boards. The foreign authority is in the city of Sömmerda. The tickets there also cost two Euros. The authority employees are very degrading. They do not talk with the refugees. The doctors are in Straußfurt, the social office is in Sömmerda.
The isolation is the biggest problem in Gangloffsömmern. A young Iranian refugee whom we knew from Freienbessingen said: „Freienbessingen was better than here. There we all were one family.“ Freienbessingen were former barracks in the middle of the wood beyond a city. Here, however, in the middle of a village, one is nevertheless isolated. „I greet the people but they don´t react. Meanwhile I have given it up!“ he says. He tells us that he once wanted to kill himself. Pamella, a Cameroonian woman who is meanwhile in Hamburg has seen it and told him: „Why do you make this? You have experienced so much! If you kill yourself you throw away your life completely. Let it be.“ He usually watches German television, he says, in order to improve his German in the isolation. However, at the moment he just pursues the Iranian transmitters because the events in Iran touch him very deeply.
The Kurdish refugee tells us that he would like to go to the Caritas in Eisenach. However, he does´t do this because of the Residenzpflicht (Residence obligation law). He was once in Sömmerda when he realised that the last bus already left and that the does not get to Gangloffsömmern at night. He took the train to Eisenach in order to take the regional train to Gangloffsömmern. Yet in Eisenach he was controlled by police officers and had to pay 123 Euros because of violating the residence obligation. He said: „We do not have much to live from!“ However it is even worse that we are also locked up here. „Here I can´t buy any calling cards in order to speak with my relatives in Iraq!“ The calling cards for cheap international telephone calls are available in Eisenach. He says: „Do you think that I am here to eat and sleep? Do you think that in Iraq we are no humans and have no other problems?“ Rage spoke from his words. He and the others said: „You come here as a human with dignity and if you remain here for long you become another person! “
For a while we spoke about this and that, about the threat of deportation against the Iranian refugee, about the friends who were in Freienbessingen and then we said goodbye. We drove direction Wuppertal and the friends from THE VOICE drove to Apolda and Jena. Before we drove off we exchanged contacts. We arranged to see again and talk about the problems and search for ways of solution.
On the way back our outrage about the isolation Lager was biting. We talked about the humiliation and the destruction of people. The big words about integration and human rights felt like slaps. We wished that many people would visit the people in spite of the long distances in order to see how systematically they are worn down. We wished that more people in this society would look for each other and build bridges of solidarity to those who are deprived of rights, are humiliated and isolated.