Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


After what feels like months but in fact lasted just over one week, the occupation of the Gerhardt-Hauptmann-Schule in Ohlauer Strasse in Kreuzberg is over.

A group of mostly African refugees refused to vacate the building following the agreement reached between Kreuzberg authorities and the over 200 people occupying the empty school (most of whom were trying to avoid deportation from Germany due to their illegal status here). The men climbed onto the roof and threatened to jump if any attempt to remove them forcefully were to be made.

For more than seven days the situation seemed to be spinning more and more out of control, also due to the often misjudged if mostly well-meant attempts at helping the demonstrators, carried out by the ever-present groups of supporters.

For more than seven days the section of Ohlauer Strasse between Reichenberger- and Wiener Strasse was completely cordoned off by the police (in numbers normally seen around here only during the May 1st riots).

All that is over now. Meaning that the street is open again, the buses are running and the kindergarten right next to the old school could finally roll up the shutters on their windows and the kids can look out and wave their hands at the passers-by again.

As for the demonstrating refugees, they are still in the building which contrary to the rumours permanently and not always wisely spread by their supporters outside, was not stormed by the police troops. They reached an agreement with the authorities and wish to work together with them to revise and perhaps even improve their chances of “becoming legal”. They are exhausted from the fight and understand that their situation can only be changed when they receive strong legal support from the city.

But what does it actually mean? Why is their position so complicated in the first place and why can´t they simple be allowed to stay and work in Germany like most of us? Obviously, one of the reasons is the fact that they arrived in Germany through illegal channels: they entered Europe without any necessary papers, fleeing from their home countries like Mali, Sudan or Libya. In most cases they were lucky to survive that trip and to reach the point of entry in Lampedusa or elsewhere in the Mediterranean Sea.

The other reason for their very much hopeless situation as asylum seekers in the Republic is German immigration law. It is not only complicated but also tough (some even say: unjust and unfair). An average person´s grasp of that law, like in my case, is very poor bordering on non-existent. As legal, often EU, immigrants we might not understand the hurdles that illegal arrival in Europe and in Germany puts up in front of people.

One thing we can do to understand it better is to read more about it and learn from someone who devoted their time to finding out on our behalf.

Here is an excellent and truly informative text written by Nina Rossmann and published by Slow Travel Berlin only yesterday. It contains both personal stories as well as the historic and legal perspective and as such offers great amount of the so necessary knowledge on the topic of illegal immigration in this country.

Part 2 is about to follow. I am already looking forward to it.

Please click the image to enter.

(image by Montecruz Fotos)

(image by Montecruz Fotos)


  1. berlioz1935
    Jul 4, 2014

    I read the article on the “Slow Travel Berlin” page too and left the following comment:
    “I read this post with great interest. Especially as we, in Australia, have a refugee problem too.
    If refugees arrive at this country they are put in a detention centre in another country, Nauru or Papua New-Guinea. Those detention centres are more like concentration camps where the detainees slowly turn into sufferers of mental illnesses.
    Our government has now hit on the idea to catch the boat arrivals long before they reach the Australian shore and hand them over to Indonesia or Sri Lanka.
    There are so many reasons why people have to leave their home countries. We all should show more compassion. Circumstances are often a direct consequence of the behaviour or interference of a Western nation. No wonder those people are knocking on our doors.
    There is plenty of work to be done, give them all a job and they will be thankful and the host country will reap the benefits too.”

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