Right this second in Kreuzberg: The Gerhart-Hauptmann-Schule, the abandoned school on Ohlauer Straße, is surrounded by police. Refugees are up on the roof protesting. Supporters in front of the gate are chanting: “Freedom of movement is everybody’s right!” Police units from across Germany are arriving. Last Friday, the district government declared the refugees could be evicted at any second. Haven’t we seen this before?
Yes, we’ve seen this before. At the end of June, 1720 police from across Germany sealed off four city blocks around the school. Surrounded by over a thousand heavily armed police, most of the 600 refugees living in the school agreed to leave “voluntarily”. They were promptly sent to a Lager on the outskirts of Berlin with no contact to the outside world – their children were no longer able to go to school.
But 40 refugees fled to the roof and threatened to jump if they were evicted. The standoff lasted for eight days. In the end, the district agreed to let the roofugees stay while the school was refurbished as a refugee center. The Greens, the governing party of Kreuzberg, put this promise in writing.
That was four months ago. With no explanation, the district gave them an ultimatum to leave by last Friday so the construction work could begin. They were offered beds in a hostel for four weeks – but they don’t want a place to sleep, they demand a place to fight for their rights!
Every promise the government made to the refugees has been broken. When police violently evicted the protest camp at Oranienplatz in April, the refugees were promised they could stay in hostels while their asylum applications were reviewed. But in the last few months, they’ve all been thrown out of the hostels – not a single one has gotten asylum, and one refugee was supposed to be deported (the deportation was blocked by protestors at the airport).
Last week Monika Herrmann, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg’s mayor, had something new to say about the situation. The reporter reminded her that an eviction could lead to people getting hurt. She said: “Yes, that can happen. But we’ve done everything that we can do … If there are people who simply want to fight to the end, then – that’s their decision.”
In other words, rather than letting the refugees stay – as she promised just four months ago! – she’s washing her hands like Pontius Pilate. She is trying to shift all responsibility for what happens to the Berlin police – but she’s the one who called the police in the first place.
What does she think the refugees should do? She explains that they “have to decide if they return to the Bundesland where their asylum application is being processed, or to Italy if they have residency there.” To speak more plainly: The Green Party wants to deport the refugees. Herrmann adds that people could support them privately. And yes, hundreds of Berliners have invited refugees into their homes. But this does not absolve the Kreuzberg district government of responsibility to give people basic human rights.
Let’s not forget, the Greens are the party with election posters saying: “For a Europe in which no one drowns!” But when they’re in power, the Greens act no differently than the CDU. At least the CDU is honest enough to say they hate refugees. The Greens, in contrast, will shoot you in the gut – and then bellyache that it was your fault.
So what can we do now? Protests were able to stop the eviction of the Ohlauer Straße in July. Protests can be successful again. The last two years have shown that refugee protests in the middle of Berlin can get their demands into the public consciousness. So I’m going to be on Ohlauer in the coming days, prepared for Tag X, and I hope you will join us there. I’ll have my FCK GRN T-Shirt on.