Lydia (not her real name) from Ghana has lived and worked legally in Berlin for 20 years; she married a German in 1990. She says she’s “tired of it here” and would like to go back home.
“In general, the Germans don’t like foreigners, so if they are in the police, it’s no different. As for us, well, we can’t be missed: we stick out! Times have changed. It’s getting better. The 1990s were much worse for our people: you’d get stopped all the time and very rudely. If they knew someone black was living in a building, they would just burst into your flat and check your papers. There was this one policeman, Dieter – everyone knew him and was scared of him: he hated foreigners, he especially hated my people and would harass us. He said he would send us all back home. He would chase us all the way to our homes, and come back again and again and check our ID every time. And very brutally.
“In general, you’d get ID checks on the street and if you didn’t have your passport, they would detain you. It happened to me. Our passports are really big and I can’t just go around with my passport all the time. So they detained me in a police van, sandwiched between two policemen like a criminal for three hours. They threatened me, intimated me. They said they were sending me back home… But in the end, they found out my papers were in order and they had to release me. So yes, me, my people, we were very scared of them.
“Now, it’s better. With the World Cup, they made a big effort. Now, especially if you’re a woman, they greet you cordially. Of course with men, it’s a bit different. They can be very brutal. But sometimes, it’s my people’s fault. They see police or controllers, and they run. If they’re caught, they’re handled very violently. But why run if you did nothing wrong? Then, some of my people deal drugs… Of course they have problems with the police. They are the ones to be blamed for that.”