Statement of refugee council – translation
Eviction of Oranienplatz: a sad outcome for the Senate’s refugee politics
Statement of Berlin Refugee Council (“Flüchtlingsrat”)
After weeks of negotiations with the Senate, Oranienplatz was evicted on 8 April 2014 – against the will of many inhabitants, contrary to version presented by the Senate and many news sources. This scenario threatens to repeat at the occupied Gerhart Hauptmann School.
Since the start of the negotiations, the refugees showed great interest in an agreement and were ready to compromise. The Berlin Refugee Council accompanied the negotiations between the Senator of Integration and the Oranienplatz delegation almost to the end, to support the refugees in face of the Senate’s disproportionally strong negotiating position. We strongly criticize the strategy followed by the Senate and the district administration of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg:1) Insufficient, intransparent offer: The offer presented by the Senate is far behind the refugees‘ demands and largely ignores the legal possibilities for giving the refugee groups represented at Oranienplatz a perspective to become legalized. Furthermore, the offer leaves crucial questions open and offers the affected people no security of any sort – neither for the procedure, nor for the result.
2) Negotiations under great pressure: For weeks, it was unclear under which mandate Ms. Kolat was negotiating. Only on 13 March 2013 did she present an “Agreement Paper” authorized by the Senate. The Senator then began to build great time pressure. She refused to answer the concrete questions of the delegation members and the Refugee Council and postponed them for “later.” So the offer’s actual contents and schedule remained unclear. The Senator ignored the request of the Refugee Council to broker a discussion with the chief of Berlin’s foreigners‘ office about the realization. 3) Unilateral proclamation of an agreement: The majority of the delegation members initially denied the agreement paper and it also found little support at an information event for the Oranienplatz refugees hastily convened by the Senator on the evening of 17 March 2014. Still, the Senate announced an agreement on 18 March and claimed that 80 percent of the refugees supported it (see press release by Refugee Council on 19 March 2014: http://www.fluechtlingsrat-berlin.de/print_neue_meldungen2.php?post_id=675).
4) No voluntary and peaceful evacuation: During the negotiations it was understood that Oranienplatz would only be evacuated consensually. In the end, however, a group of refugees, the majority of whom no longer live at Oranienplatz, dismantled the tents and huts against the will of the others. Finally, the police – alarmed by the district administration – forcefully removed from the park all who refused to leave.
5) Intentional acceptance of split: With its unilateral proclamation of an “agreement” the senate pushed and exploited the split among the refugees. The agreement paper claims that the Senate’s offer would only take effect if all tents and huts were dismantled. Those who saw a chance for themselves in the offer therefore had to fear collective responsibility with those who did not want to evacuate the park. In the end, the Senator of Integration and her employees watched, how one group of refugees destroyed the huts and tents of the others on 8 April 2014.6) Broken promises and chaos during accommodation: The “Agreement Paper” states that Oranienplatz will remain as an information and protest platform for the rights of refugees, self-managed by the former inhabitants. In reality, large parts of the park are fenced off and inaccessible to refugees. In the press, Senate representatives declare that Oranienplatz will be restored to its original state. The Senator also promised that all Oranienplatz refugees would receive accommodation. However, there still are no beds for some of those made homeless by the eviction. The city’s support for the evicted refugees is completely chaotic.
7) Defamation of supporters: The Senate and Kreuzberg’s district mayor repeatedly accused supporters of politically exploiting the refugees. Thereby they deny people’s ability to make their own decisions and willfully ignore the fact that many inhabitants of the camp did not agree with the eviction of Oranienplatz.
The impression arose that Oranienplatz became a toy for Berlin’s ruling coalition and that the main goal was to get rid of the tents and huts. The refugees‘ urgent humanitarian problems and their legitimate demands for a minimum perspective were sidelined.
It is more than shameful that the Senate could only reach its goal – the evacuation of Oranienplatz – by pitting the refugees against each other, especially for those who claimed to work towards a peaceful and consensual solution. Equally shameful is the chaotic realization of the offer. From the perspective of the Refugee Council, 8 April 2014 is a low point in the Senate’s treatment of refugees.
The Refugee Council demands:
– Humanitarian right to stay for the refugees
– Accept and support the refugees‘ legitimate demand for EU-wide freedom of movement and labor market access, abolish movement restrictions and forced internment
– Immediately withdraw the police from Oranienplatz
– The Senate must keep all promises, particularly a deportation stop for the Oranienplatz refugees
– Begin negotiations with the hunger-striking refugees on the northern side of Oranienplatz
– Eye-level negotiations with the inhabitants of Gerhart Hauptmann School until a consensual (!) solution is found; the school must stay as a self-managed home for refugees
– Stop defamating supporters of the protest
Flüchtlingsrat Berlin e.V.
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