(Main Picture: refugees welcome © seven resist on Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Refugee and police forces clashed in late June after over a year of tenuous occupation of Oranienplatz and Ohlauer Straße by refugees from various countries. The occupants were removed from Gerhart-Hauptmann-Schule in Kreuzberg with over 900 police officers. An estimated 200-250 refugees had been living in the former school for 18 months in poor sanitary conditions. More than 200 refugees were relocated to other shelters in Charlottenburg and Spandau while between 40-80 refugees refused to leave the former school. Currently, a few refugees are still in the building, awaiting the police’s next move. Many of the refugees occupying the TV tower, came directly from the evicted Oranienplatz and Ohlauer Straße.
Movement and protests have sprang up all over Berlin in response to the eviction. The protesters from the TV released a statement stating,
“Everywhere we are turned away. Everyone has the same answer for us. Everyone refers us to the next person. No one listens to us. No one wants to be responsible for us refugees and the inhumane laws under which we live.”
The plight of refugees in Germany received attention in 2012 when Mohammad Rahsepar, an Iranian refugee, committed suicide in a detention camp in Würzburg, Southern Germany. After escaping from Iran, Rahsepar lived for seven months in a Gemeinschaftsunterkunft (‘communal accommodation’), with 400 other detainees. With Germany’s Residenzpflicht, or mandatory residence, refugees awaiting trial also cannot leave the area of the immigration authority. With the lack of self determination and isolation, refugees often feel there is no way out.
Rahsepar’s suicide sparked outrage. In September 2012, 70 refugees from varying backgrounds marched from Bavaria to Berlin, holding demonstrations in various cities along the way. By the time the caravan had reached Berlin, they were welcomed with a solidarity march of over 6,000 participants. Many of the refugees ended up staying in Oranienplatz and Ohlauer Straße.