New Berlin: Refugee Camp Oranienplatz

by Sara · 09.04.2014 · Kiez Life, Places · 7 comments

When I stepped out of my door last even­ing, a fly­ing rock missed my face only by inches. I looked around the corner to see hooded Antifa riot­ing on Reichen­ber­ger Straße. At first I thought I had missed the 1st of May. I finally summed up the moxy to go and see what was hap­pen­ing and asked a passerby. “The Antifa is protest­ing the demoli­tion of the refugee camp on Orani­en­platz. The protests were peace­ful at first, but when the cops came, some of them star­ted behav­ing aggressively.”

There were about two or three dozen rioters and about six hun­dred police men. The rela­tions were ridicu­lous. There was a lot of ten­sion, and I was lucky to quickly pass the dangerzone. I looked back and real­ized that I didn’t even know where the refugees were going next.

I read in the papers this morn­ing that the refugees left vol­un­tar­ily. These were the con­di­tions the Sen­ate put up for the talks to con­tinue. Some of the refugees are in proper acco­mod­a­tions now, oth­ers in a former hostel. The refugees were prom­ised a chance of an indi­vidual exam­in­a­tion of their immig­ra­tion status.

I won­der why the Sen­ate was so des­per­ate in its attempt to close down the camp. Is it an eye­sore for the city to have the obvi­ous wrong-doings of our state put on dis­play pub­licly? Or was it a mat­ter of respons­ib­il­ity? What was the idea behind the camp, what is the legit­im­a­tion of shut­ting it down? Where will all those people be in a couple of months; back where they fled from or in a safe home in Ger­many, pos­sibly even Berlin?

It’s been more than a year since the refugee camp was put in place by the demon­strat­ors. They might be bet­ter off — around 500 people mind you — but noth­ing is going to change for the rest of the refugees who run ashore in Ger­many or Europe in gen­eral, or so it seems.

The pic­ture I took a couple of weeks ago sym­bol­izes in a very lit­eral way what kind of place Ber­lin is. Always loaded with hopes and dreams. There are so many traded legends and myths about how these dreams came true in an unres­trict­ive envir­on­ment that could only be found right here, but it seems today they’re only repro­duced, stripped away from any mean­ing. I hope the refugees who came to find “New Ber­lin” will not be dis­ap­poin­ted. I hope they will find a new home here, and all of those who fol­low, too. But some­thing tells me that the re-location of the refugees, out of sight from the good middle-class Ber­liners, is just another step towards a bleaker life in a clean, tidy city, in which protests become integ­ral parts of the event soci­ety and cul­tural art world and not tools of polit­ical and soci­etal change.

7 comments
  1. Com­plic­ated topic, but for me as a Ber­lin cit­izen I have to say that I’m in favor of remov­ing the camp. I’m fully aware of the bad situ­ation for refugees and I vote only for parties try­ing to solve this prob­lem. But hav­ing a Favela-like space in a city is not some­thing I like to accept. I’m pretty sure this opin­ion is shared by the major­ity of people liv­ing in Ber­lin. Don’t for­get, people have to live in this city, too.

  2. Thank you for your input, Sebastian. I do agree with you: this is no solu­tion. But it was inten­ded to raise aware­ness of the prob­lem, a prob­lem that should be solved polit­ic­ally and not ignored. Now, with the removal of the camp, they’re pleas­ing the cit­izens but effect­ively they changed NOTHING about the situ­ation. This is why I find it so sad that they removed the camp. The pro­test­ers didn’t even get what they wanted, a change. Nobody cares any­more. And once all the leftovers are removed, nobody will remem­ber either.

  3. The pro­test­ers have occu­pied an open space that belongs to every­body in Ber­lin. It’s a pub­lic parc area used by all kind of people liv­ing in Kreuzberg. The are was unus­able for nearly two years. Do you really find it accept­able that a small minor­ity ter­ror­izes the major­itiy in a city? That hap­pens far too often in Ber­lin. And yes: It’s about the free­dom of every­body. Remov­ing the camp is a lib­er­a­tion for us Ber­liners liv­ing there. If you are so con­cerned about the refugees (which I don’t blame for what they did, it’s the fail­ure of Ber­lin author­it­ies) you are always free to wel­come some of them in your home.

    Pub­lish­ing this com­ment is a proof of free­dom of speech on this page.

  4. No, I don’t find it accept­able. But I also don’t find the polit­ical situ­ation accept­able. This is not an indi­vidual prob­lem, it’s a gen­eral prob­lem that needs atten­tion. Do you think the people had fun camp­ing all winter? Did they enjoy stay­ing in a pub­lic space, vul­ner­able like that? I doubt it.

    But that’s what a protest usu­ally is: it’s uncom­fort­able, it needs sac­ri­fices. If I invite a refugee into my home, then what did I change about the polit­ical status of refugees in Ger­many? Noth­ing. But if people get worked up about a pub­lic space being used like that, it might bring the dis­cus­sion forward.

    So think about that for a moment before you think about your pub­lic space being “lib­er­ated”. Lib­er­ated from what? From the protest aim­ing to make a bet­ter place of this country?

    That said, I KNOW the pro­cess is com­plic­ated. I’m not say­ing the solu­tion is right at hand. It’s not. There is no quick way to resolve this or the Asyl­status in Ger­many. But it’s bet­ter to show the open wounds than to hide the bod­ies where nobody can find them.

    Or let me sum it up in a less dip­lo­matic way: fuck your pub­lic space if it can’t be used to pub­licly dis­play what’s wrong with this country.

  5. You con­tra­dict your­self in your answer: first you say that you don’t find it accept­able, that a minor­ity ter­ror­ises the major­ity, then at the end of your com­ment, you tell this major­itiy to just “fuck off”. Excuse my french, but you have a quite imma­ture an naive approach to this problem.

    Let­ting people in your home will change exactly what those people need: a home. So you could make a dif­fer­ence. But of yourse you won’t: It’s much more com­fort­able to call the “state” or gov­ern­ment for help instead of your­self chan­ging some­thing. Help­ing the refugees: yes, do it gov­ern­ment, but hey don’t involve me. To your rhet­or­ical ques­tion: “Do you think the people had fun camp­ing in winter” let me answer with another reth­or­ical ques­tion: Do you think the Anwohner found it cool not bee­ing able using their place for two years? all the women with babies, hm? all the eld­erly turk­ish women sit­ting on those benches? see how idi­otic such a ques­tion is?

  6. You’re twist­ing my words. I don’t find it accept­able because the polit­ical situ­ation isn’t accept­able, that doesn’t mean it isn’t neces­sary to point out where the prob­lems lie.

    As for help­ing indi­vidu­ally, sure, I can take one refugee into my home. But the point of a protest is to change societal/political issues. World hun­ger doesn’t end if I send one per­son food for the rest of their lives.

    I am not being com­fort­able by not doing any­thing, but I can’t change the sys­tem by provid­ing hous­ing for one per­son. I hope you under­stand the point of view this whole ordeal entails. This is what pub­lic protests and demon­stra­tions are for.

    As for the Turk­ish women and the babies that need their Orani­en­platz: sure. Let them have it. They need it more than a “redund­ant polit­ical protest”. I am not going to keep this con­ver­sa­tion going, you are well entitled to your opin­ion, so am I.

  7. Hi Sara,

    yes, it is very sad that nobody cares about this obvi­ous prob­lem. We are one of the richest coun­tries in the world and instead of wel­com­ing for­eign­ers and integ­rat­ing them, we do everything we can to piss them off and often for­cing them into crim­inal careers.

    On the other hand, if this kind of protest had no last­ing effect in two years as you said, I would call it inef­fect­ive. There is no point in con­tinu­ing it.

    I don’t know how to cre­ate more aware­ness for this prob­lem as Ger­man cit­izens usu­ally don’t care that much about prob­lems of for­eign­ers. This is a sad trueth as people usu­ally ignore what doesn’t affect them.

    I know I don’t have any solu­tion for it, but at least wanted to share the per­spect­ive of someone liv­ing here.