Violation of the human right to freedom of movement in Germany
A group of asylum seekers walked 600 kilometers in 29 days from Würzburg, in Northern Bavaria, to Germany’s capital Berlin. Fifteen people started the march, in the end they were almost four times as many. This is quite significant, as asylum seekers in Germany may only move freely in the borough or county in which they have filed for asylum. This violation of the human right to freedom of movement is unique in Europe. German law calls this “compulsory residence” (Residenzpflicht), which is regulated by §56 of the Asylum Procedure Act.
By consciously breaking this law, the group of asylum seekers is now calling attention to their problems. Based at a provisional tent camp in Berlin, the group is demanding the federal government of Germany to abolish “compulsory residence”. In addition, the group is seeking the acceleration of the asylum process (which can take up to several years in Germany) as well as an end to refugee camps and deportations.
“With this march we have broken a taboo and brought the issue to the agenda. We gave all asylum seekers the courage to fight”, says Turgay Ulu, a Turkish journalist and writer, who marched to whole way from Würzburg. He was jailed for 15 years in his home country because of his political views.
After his release, which was supported by Amnesty International, he fled to Greece, when it became clear that he could be imprisoned again. From there he came to Germany. He has filed for asylum one and a half years ago and is still waiting for the immigration authorities’ decision. Does Ulu have the right to seek asylum or not?
In Germany, the answer to this question can take many years. And until the decision is made, refugees are housed in special camps (called “mass accommodations” b the refugees), they may not leave their district and get food stamps instead of money to buy some groceries. They are not allowed to work, nor to attend a language course.
“We fled, because we were persecuted in our countries and had no right to life there. Now we are in European countries looking for safety, and we still have to keep on fighting for our rights”, says Ulu, the Turkish writer.
Most camps are isolated from the outside world, middle in the woods, miles away from a bus stop. Refugees from many different countries live together in forced communities and tiny rooms are shared by people who can’t talk to each other because they don’t speak the same language.
By setting up two provisional camps in Berlin-Kreuzberg and right in front of the city’s best known landmark, the Brandenburg Gate, these refugees are making a huge statement. They are breaking their isolation. “We’re trying to keep our human side alive that is being destroyed by isolation and loneliness”, says Ulu. Also, they are able to participate in what is otherwise denied to them: the cultural and social life of a community. Ballhaus Naunynstraße, a theater nearby, is donating free tickets for plays. Dozens of supporters come to the camp every day to help out. Many people living around the tent camp let the refugees use their bathrooms for a hot shower.
Author: Josephine Landertinger Forero