Chronology of the Events in the Donauwörth Reception Camp – David Jassey

David Jassey, a former member of the Gambian Integration Committee and its executive, tells about the self-organisation of the Gambian refugees in the Donauwörth asylum camp (Bavaria, Germany) and analyses the effect of the massive police attack in the the camp on 14 March 2018. The 30 Gambian refugees who were arrested in this operation still suffer from their victimisation (more information on the support campaign, see end of the text).

by David Jassey (July 2018)

Between November 2017 and March 2018 Gambians were the majority among the refugees in the Donauwörth asylum reception camp even as there were also other nationalities like Turkish, Georgians, Pakistanis and Somalians. We Gambians came to first know one another in the camp. Although we were confronted with a lot of difficulties in the camp as asylum seekers, we knew we needed to organise ourselves if we wanted to be integrated in our new German society, As people who had just met each other in the camp we had to start from somewhere, no matter the challenges. To get to know each other better we first organised evening dance and singing , indoor games and soccer, to help us building trust. Then we started having general meetings once a month, and when the Gambian community became more interested, they requested to hold the meeting weekly – Thursday became our meeting day. In the process of self-organisation we come up with ways to meet the Donauwörth community: by (a) going out for voluntary community work or service like cleaning some public places, (b) organising a day to meet the youths at the vocational school where some of our colleagues were also learning, (c) organising a day to visit two Kindergartens, and also by (d) organising a day to give a public talk at the Donauwörth townhall. We wanted to inform the natives and the interested persons about us and then allow for gradual integration into the society.

However all these plans of socialisation with our new community of Donauwörth were overcome by problems that we were facing within and outside of the camp on a daily basis. For example (i) the social office blocked our pocket money immediately when one received a negative response from BAMF on one’s asylum case, (ii) the health centre refused to attend our colleagues with hepatitis B+ and for stomach or head ache the doctor wrote a prescription to buy medicine outside of the camp, (iii) the Malteser security personnel were so hard on our colleagues: For instance when a colleague had some misunderstanding with a security guard, before you knew it you would see the whole security personnel running from all angles of the camp towards that direction and reaching the scene, without asking any question, they would pin the refugee on the ground while others would be on the head, some on the body and some others on the leg, (iv) the police were harrassing our school-going colleagues on the way by searching while other students would stand by, and then would give them humiliating statements like “What are you doing in our country?” or “Why can’t you go home to your country?”. This harassment took place on a daily basis.

An executive was selected to help to deal with these situations and to negotiate with the authorities about the issues and concerns of the Gambian community in the camp. The community called itself the Gambian Integration Committee, the executive was understood as its mediator towards the authorities.

At the request of the Gambian Integration Committee, the excecutive wrote on the 23rd January 2018 its first letter to the government office in the camp, the representative of the camp management, requesting for very basic things, for example equal treatment of all refugees regardless of their nationalities, unblocking of our pocket money, and for a working permit. On the 29th January 2018 we wrote a follow-up letter.

Hence we did not receive any response from the government office in the camp about our concerns, the Gambian Integration Committee decided to stop providing the services that it was offering within the camp, beginning on the 12th February 2018. It was also the very day that the executive was sent to the government office in the camp to make a verbal follow-up of the two letters sent to the same office. The executive met with Mrs. Glass, head of the government office in the camp. Already very angry, and without listening much to what the executive had to say, she gave the executive an ultimatum of twelve minutes to get all the Gambian working refugees back to work or else they would never work anymore.

In the afternoon while we were having lunch in the canteen, one of the ladies who serves our food came out with her smartphone and started shooting a video of us as we were eating. We asked her to delete it as we didn’t permit her to tape us, but she refused and ran in the kitchen. The Gambian refugees were angry and sad by the event happening around them in the camp, so they decided to go back to Italy on foot. Reaching the Donauwörth train station the refugees were met by police force who stopped from going further. For the first time the refugees came to know that the camp has a director and he lives in Augsburg. The director on that moment entered in negotiations with the refugees to go back to the camp. At this point the executive stated the difficultites that we were facing in the camp, and the camp director promised to facilitate in seeing them been solved. Also he promised to call for a meeting on the following day where all these issues would be addressed. On the 13th February 2018 the meeting was actually held as promised, however he rejected all the promises he had made in the previous day as to facilitate some of the problems that we were facing.

After the event of 12th February 2018 the situation in the camp became even more unfriendly for the Gambian refugees, so the executive had to enter into negotiations with the authorities where the director and the police were always present.

In between, the executive and the Gambian Integration Committee held a lot of meetings which served to strategise where to lodge our complaints. On the 21st February 2018 we obtained an open demonstration permit from the Landratsamt.

On the 27th February 2018 the Gambian Integration Committee made a restatement of eight demands as requested by the Maltheser for the then upcoming meeting scheduled for the 1st March 2018 which was organised by the director of the camp. In that meeting all of the eight demands that we had handed over for the meeting were rejected, except the one concerning the Ausweis (ID). It was agreed that there would be no writing on or red strip on our Ausweis. To confirm this agreement, the executive sent one of its members to change his ID in the Haus 47. As this was rejected we realised that the agreement had been dishonoured in our absense.

On 7th March 2018 the executive visited both Haus 47 and the government office in the camp to inquire for reasons that had lead to the nullifying of the agreement without our notice. We did not get any satisfying explanation. On the same day we decided to halt providing the services offered in the camp while the students also stopped going to school. All this was to demonstrate our dissatisfaction for disregarding our agreement.

Donauwörth Integration Committee 2

The situation remained so – no work or going to school. Not until 14th March when the police received some information that one of our colleagues who was due for deportation to Italy was in the camp on that night. So about 3 AM while the refugees were asleep, the police came to arrest the gentleman. It happened that they never found him. The police started knocking on the doors of other refugee rooms, waking refugees on the ground floor. At some point the fire alarm went off and refugees of all nationalities in Haus 11 came down seeking for safety as we had been taught in our first meeting by the accommodation management. When the police saw the growing number of refugees coming down they drove away and claimed that the Gambian refugees had prevented deportation.

Let us differentiate between these two words: Prevent and protest. To prevent means to impede or block something from happening. In this case, the usage of the word “to prevent deportation” is not feasible because in the first place, the refugees never knew that the police would be coming that night to arrest a collegue for deportation, hence nobody blocked the police from driving in to the camp. Secondly, it would have been senseless for the refugees to try to prevent the deportation because in fact there was nobody to be deported – as the gentleman was not found on this bed. On the other hand, the word protest means to state verbally that one does not agree with what had happened or said. In this case the usage of the word protest would have been more appropriate if some colleague did disagree with the police for waking them up in that early morning.

The rest of the day passed well until around 2 PM when we saw about 60 police vans and about 200 police officers running side by side with these cars while other police officers manned the circumference of the camp fence. Every exit door in the two buildings, Haus 10 and Haus 11, were taken under control at once, with several officers standing at each. The police were very armed with: short guns, battons, tear gas, pepper spray, metal and plastic handcuffs, long sticks, dogs, ropes and protective gears like helmet ans gloves. In the corridors the Gambian refugees tried to ask the police what was going on and why they were in the camp, but all we received as answer was pepper spray on our faces. One of our colleagues who was affected by the pepper spray collapsed and admitted to the hospital. At some point two glass windows and a glass door were broken as refugees struggled to have enough ventilation after pepper spray had been injected in the corridors.

We refer to this police action as police violence because there was absolutely no need for their harsh and dangerous actions. I would like to underline that it is rare that protection seekers will seek to challenge the laws and conventions of the society. With this in mind, statements that refugees are “aggressive” or “dangerous” are unfounded and rather operate as political arguments to justify the isolation of refugees. The local community is thus split and the freedom of movement of certain people is denied.

At some point in their operation, the police forced the refugees and came up with three strategies to arrest refugees: (i) the Malteser provided the police with a list of names (ii) the Malteser security and the police were going from one room to another pinpointing refugees to be arrested (iii) the refugees were asked to hand over their ID’s and put their hands forwards so that the police can feel the refugees hands as to know who is to be arrested or not. The whole police operation took four hours. The intended deportee was nowhere to be found. By the end of the operation 32 of our colleagues were arrested. Two of them were released on that evening in Augsburg and were transferred to Heims on the same evening. The others were taken into pre-trial custody. On the same evening the police made a press release on how the Gambian refugees prevented deportation and how aggressive they were. They publicly stigmatised the arrested persons as “rioters” and “ringleaders”.

The following day the Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann announced his visit the Donauwörth refugee camp, there then we thought we will also have the chance to narrate the story about the event. Later in the same day the Gambian refugees heard that the minister had commented that he does not want to speak with Black people. Hence we also decided to stay indoors during his visit.

After Herrmann’s visit to the camp on 15th March 2018 the executive decided to engage in an intensive campaign that would bring awareness about what actually happened. We for instance organised a press conference on the 22nd March 2018 giving a detailed narration of the situation. On the 26th 2018 the we organised a demonstration in Munchen demanding the release of our colleagues and requesting for justification of the police action on the 14th March 2018.

On the 29th March 2018 we again staged another demonstration in Donauwörth which denounced the police action, called for the release of our collegues who were still in pre-trial detention. We requested for the German goverment to give us hope in stead of putting us unjustly behind bars. The executive gave online interviews, radio shows, and TV interviews. Sadly enough for the Gambian refugees the media was quoting our statements wrongly to suit their own opinion on the matter. At the end, the executive refused to give any more interviews.

We wrote letters to give members of the Integration Committee the opportunity to visit our colleagues in prison. All applications were rejected. In mid-May, the police gradually released our colleagues from pre-trial detention. Some were deported directly from the prison to Italy, others were transferred to Heims. Each of the freed received a penalty order (Strafbefehl) for breach of civil order (Landsfriedensbruch), some additionally for resisting execution officers. Only those under 21 years old were not charged. Seven persons objected to the penalty orders, ready to go to court to fight their case. By mid-August, three of them had already been deported to Italy. The remaining four are seriously threatened by the Dublin procedure.

The police attack in Donauwörth and the deportation orders left the Gambian community in fear and terror. Deportations became more frequent and aggressive since the incident, people being picked up for deportation almost every night at two or three o’clock in the morning. Many left Germany by themselves, simply because they were afraid. In the beginning of the year around 360 people from Gambia lived in the first reception camp in Donauwörth. Meanwhile there are maybe 50 people left. Donauwörth has become a terrifying place.

David Jassey was an active member of the Gambian Integration Committee in the Donauwörth reception camp. Later he was transferred to a Heim in Unterwegen.

The first court hearing against two of the Gambian refugees who contested their penalty orders will take place on 7th November at 1 pm at the Amtsgericht Augsburg – under the condition, they manage to survive their Dublin period. Different groups and individuals from Bavaria, Baden-Württenberg and Berlin have started a campaign to support the court cases and the rest of the released persons (contact: davejassey@gmail.com).

Donate to support the victims of the Donauwörth police attack:

Spendenkonto:
Bayerischer Flüchtlingsrat
Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
IBAN: DE89 7002 0500 0008 8326 02
BIC: BFSWDE33MUE (München)
Verwendungszweck “Donauwoerth”

There is nothing to celebrate! – Protests against the opening of the Landesamtes für Asyl in Manching / Ingolstadt on 27/07/2018

Against Deportations and forced camp residence.

On the morning of Friday 27th of August, Söder and Herrmann are coming to Manching to celebrate the inauguration of the state office of asylum. We find this sickening. The CSU is hereby realising its plans to accelerate deportations and augment their powers on a state level. They are making true on their threats, motivated by racism, to take the violent deportation of people into their own hands and to make the situation of refugees even less bearable. Deportations and the right-wing election campaign of the CSU are no cause to celebrate. Continue reading “There is nothing to celebrate! – Protests against the opening of the Landesamtes für Asyl in Manching / Ingolstadt on 27/07/2018”

Freedom for the refugees in Donauwörth, Ellwangen, and everywhere! #FreeDW32!

[>> deutsch]

At least since the recent events in Ellwangen, the conditions in German deportation camps have once again been back in the public eye. But Ellwangen is not an isolated case. A series of police violence that is even more massive than usual is spreading across Bavaria. The further expansion of the competences of the state administration in May 2017, as well as the recent tightening of the PAG (Police Tasks Act) in 2017 and 2018 also mean more violence. People have always been isolated, degraded, deprived of their rights, harassed by police and injured in deportations in so-called ‘community accommodations’. Violence and raids in these camps are therefore not new. At the same time, the excesses of violence and repression are not onlyh increasing, but are even made easier in legal terms. The number of police attacks has grown precisely in the months in which the discussions about the PAG have become louder, and the AnkER centres have been on the wish list of the CDU, CSU and SPD. Continue reading “Freedom for the refugees in Donauwörth, Ellwangen, and everywhere! #FreeDW32!”

Massive police violence during a raid in Deggendorf and Hengersberg on 14/05/18: The view of the inhabitants

[>> deutsch]

Series of massive police violence: After Ellwangen and Donauwörth, two major police operations took place in Deggendorf and Hengersberg in one week. Already on Monday, 14.05.2018 police carried out a major operation in the deportation camp in Deggendorf and the reception centre in Hengersberg.

More than 200 officers combat dress and with police dogs stormed the accommodations around three o’clock in the morning. The declared aim was to intimidate the refugees in order to avoid future solidarity of the inhabitants during deportations. In addition, ten people were to be deported: A family of two children, four men, a woman seven months pregnant and her son. The 21-year-old woman was tied up, separated from her four-year-old child by force and taken into deportation custody. Another person injured themselves for fear of deportation and had to be admitted to the district hospital. Two people were not found despite the search of the entire building. Another person stopped her deportation at the last moment at the airport. Continue reading “Massive police violence during a raid in Deggendorf and Hengersberg on 14/05/18: The view of the inhabitants”

Statement on police brutality in the reception center in Donauwörth on 14th of March

[>> deutsch]

On Wednesday, 14th of March, police forces showed extreme brutality towards the inhabitants of the reception center and arrested at least 29 persons. This happened after a legitimate protest against an attempted deportation. The location of those who were arrested is still unclear. There was no violence against humans on the side of the refugees. The charges of “breach of peace” and “grievous bodily harm” are utterly unfounded and constructed and will need independent evidence.

Refugees and human rights organisations have been criticising the inhuman living conditions in the reception centre (EA) in Donauwörth for months. The minister of the interior, Herrmann, used the false accusations against refugees spread by police as a pretext to personally travel to Donauwörth on Friday to continue his electoral campaign with right wing demands such as more police and more deportations.

The refugees in the EA of Donauwörth have released a statement (see below), in which they reject the unfounded accusations against them, demand the release of the prisoners, the recognition of their asylum applications, working permits and protection from the police.

Antiracist innitiatives and human rights organisations are stating their solidarity with those involved and with their demands. In addition to this, these groups demand the dismissal of the social workers who have violated their mandate towards the refugees in the EA.

Continue reading “Statement on police brutality in the reception center in Donauwörth on 14th of March”

From the perspective of the residents

[>> deutsch]

Below, you see a medical certificate and a video statement concerning the events of the 14th of March 2018 in Donauwörth. To protect the identity of those concerned, the voices are distorted and the faces are covered.

Anamnesis:

The patient originates from Gambia and is residing in asylum seeker housing. For reasons unknown to him, police suddenly appeared there, while he was merely wanting to leave the building. During the police procedure, he says the police suddenly drew out pepper spray which they sprayed in his eyes, causing him to feel faint and hindering his breathing. The patient is visibly intimidated and is shaking all over.

Diagnosis:

Hyperventilation after police procedure using pepper spray

Stinging eyes and throat after use of pepper spray

Dizziness eases gradually

Therapies:

The patient was innitially intimidated and hyperventilating but without any pathology. The dizziness, as well as the stinging in throat and eyes ceased of its own accord. The patient was discharged to your care in improved condition.

Attempts to eliminate the protests in Donauwörth

[>> deutsch]

In the early hours of the morning on 14th of March 2018 a deportation was successfully prevented in the reception center in Donauwörth. That afternoon however, a large police operation took place. 29 people were arrested and taken into custody overnight. One person is currently on remand. Several, according to current information, are in deportation custody. One person was released an hour ago and reported that his finger prints, photoghraphs and DNA samples were taken. The accusation is of breach of peace. This is a charge that serves the criminalisation of uprisings as well as inducing forced transfers, which aim to destroy the 500 person strong protests in Donauwörth.

The same strategie of arrest was also used in the summer of 2017, when the residents of the camp in Memmingen revolted against the conditions in the camp as well as against the racist security personell. 4 people were imprisoned on charges of breach of peace, 2 of whom have still not been released.

Herrmann, the minister of the interior made a statement on the prevented deportation in Donauwörth. He construes the protests as violent excesses. In fact the residents of the reception center showed civil courage by preventing the deportation of their friend through their presence. In doing so they were threatened with dogs, subjected to pepper spray and suffered other forms of physical violence on the part of the passively and actively armed police. As there was no faulty conduct on the part of the activists, the procecution is now construing the charge of breach of peace.

Video: Police at EA, 14.03

Video: Festnahme

More backgroundinformation: hier

Mass detention after protest in Donauwörth on 14/03/2018

[>> deutsch]

In the early morning of March 14, 2018, a deportation was successfully prevented in the Donauwörth reception centre. Afterwards, a large police operation was carried out in the afternoon. Those residents who were in their rooms were locked in, both entrance and exit doors of the reception centre had been locked as well. Room searches and identity checks were carried out. 29 people were arrested. Continue reading “Mass detention after protest in Donauwörth on 14/03/2018”

Strike in reception camp Donauwörth

[>> deutsch]

Donauwörth means deprivation of freedom and exploitation – for those who live there, or have to live there. In Donauwörth, the administrative district Donau-Ries, there is a reception center/ “Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung” (EA). According to the law, people have to stay there for up to two years. They are systematically deprived of all rights in order to force them to leave the country. Officially, it’s called “voluntary return.” No freedom of movement: Residence obligation (1). No freedom over the choice of daily food: canteen food. Massive exploitation through 80 cent jobs in the reception center. Deprivation of the right to work, instead: Reduced or canceled pocket money. Deprivation of the right to education. Deprivation of the right on health care, instead completely inadequate medical care.

Strike of the 80 cent job – the alleged aid organization Malteser reacts to this with threatening to reduce the pocket money. This means, on the one hand, that the right to strike is not accepted and on the other hand, that the pocket money, independent from the sallery, will be reduced.

People from Gambia from the reception center packed their stuff to go to Italy by train. Voluntary return? This is a cynical expression of the meticulously planned German racist system, that is supposed to force people to leave the country as quickly as possible.

The journey to Italy has been stopped. As far as Germany wants to throw people from the Global South out of the country, it is also forbidden to let them go. The Germanwide monopol for trains, “Deutsche Bahn” stopped the traffic around Donauwörth. Racist reactions, that it would have been the fault of the refugees, followed.

It is not their fault if they are on strike with the unworthy working conditions with a “sallery” of 80 cents per hour (2). It is the necessary consequence in the fight for an end of racism and thus the right to stay. It is not their fault that “Deutsche Bahn” stops the traffic. It seems more like a last attempt to exercise power, to prepare the ground for hatespeech against refugees and to avoid a scandal. Wouldn’t it been scandalous if people had traveled against the European Dublin law, under the eyes of German policewo*men?

Detained in a camp until the deportation is “allowed”. At the same time leaving the administrated district is prohibited. Working for 80 cents an hour. Canteen food. Poor medical care. Characteristics that are strongly linked to conditions in prisons. Waiting two years until Italy and Germany agreed on deportation to Italy. Loosing two years from your own life.
The strikers from Donauwörth announce that they will take action again, unless positive changes occur in the forthcoming talks with the authorities. Also last week they went on protest and sit ins.

******

(1) German law (§ 56 AsylG, § 61 (1) AufenthG) that forces asylum seekers to stay inside the district of the foreigners’ registration office.

(2) The Bavarian integration law created these working conditions for non-citizens, apart of the minimum wage for citizens.

Demo in Bamberg on 17/01/2018

[English below!]

Rote Bänder als Zeichen für die stattfindende Gewalt

Menschen aus dem Abschiebelager Bamberg riefen alle geflüchteten sowie solidarischen Menschen und Organisationen auf, sich mit ihnen auf der Straße gegen das Abschiebesystem auszusprechen. Aktivist*innen aus anderen Abschiebelagern und aus den verschiedensten antirassistischen Gruppen und selbstorganisierten Initiativen schlossen sich lautstark dem Protest an. International Women Space, Internationales Frauencafe, Refugee Struggle For Freedom, Deggendorf Immigrants und viele viele mehr machten gemeinsam die Konsequenzen des Abschiebe- und Lagersystems in verschiedenen Reden sichtbar.

Im Rahmen der Abschlusskundgebung vor dem Bamberger Rathaus, warteten die Protestierenden solange, bis sich der Oberbürgermeister zeigte. Er wurde mit den verheerenden Zuständen konfrontiert. Vor seinen Augen brach eine der Rednerinnen, mit ihrem Kind im Arm, während ihrer Ausführungen zusammen. Ein Krankenwagen musste gerufen werden. Das Kollabieren der Rednerin, ein Zeichen von massivem Stress, ließ den OB dennoch mehr oder weniger unbeeindruckt. Schließlich versprach er nichts weiter als die leere Phrase, dass er mit dem sogenannten Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge binnen 1 Woche reden werde. Charmanterweise wurde noch ein Stadtbus (vgl. letztes Bild) bestellt, der die Protestierenden schnell wieder ins Lager abseits der Öffentlichkeit verfrachten sollte. Zurück im Abschiebelager geht die Unterdrückung weiter. Repression bis ins kleinste Detaille; Allen – auch den Kindern – werden die Trillerpfeifen von den Securities abgenommen.

Wieder und wieder werden Protestierende im Sinne der Verantwortungsdiffusion vertröstet. Auch dies muss mit Hinblick auf §63 Abs. 2 des Bundesbeamtengesetzes als Farce betitelt werden. So heißt es “, wenn das aufgetragene Verhalten die Würde des Menschen verletzt”, ist der*die Beamtin zur Niederlegung der Dienstanweisung verpflichtet. Auf den bürokratischen Duktus der Verantwortungsweitergabe, lässt sich hiermit nicht mehr berufen.

Video über den Protest. Reden in verschiedenen Sprachen. Gespräch mit Bürgermeister und der städtischen Pressesprecherin.


Red ribbons point to the violence that is taking place.

 

People from the Bamberg deportation camp called on all refugees, as well as people and organizations that stand in solidarity to take to the streets with them in order to speak out against the deportation system. Activists from other deportation camps and various anti-racist groups and self-organized initiatives joined the protest loudly. International Women Space, International Women’s Cafe, Refugee Struggle for Freedom, Deggendorf Immigrants and many more made the consequences of the deportation and Lager system visible in various speeches.

During the conclusive rally in front of Bamberg’s town hall, the protesters waited until the mayor showed up. He was confronted with the devastating conditions. In front of his eyes, one of the speakers collapsed during her speech with her child in her arms. An ambulance had to be called. The collapse of the speaker, a sign of massive stress, left the OB more or less unaffected. After all, he promised nothing more than the empty phrase that he would talk to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) within one week. Charmingly enough, a city bus was ordered (see last picture), which was to transport the protesters quickly back to the camp, and away from the public. Back in the deportation camp, repression continues. Repression down to the smallest detail; the whistles used on the protest are taken from everybody – including the children – by the securities.

Again and again, protesters are put off and confronted with a diffusion of responsibility. This, too, must be described as a farce with regard to §63 para. 2 of the Federal Civil Servants Act (Bundesbeamtengesetzes). It says “if the behavior ordered violates the dignity of the human being”, the officer is obliged to resign from their official instructions. It is no longer possible to point to the bureaucratic style of responsibility transfer.

Video about protest. Different speeches in different languages. Talk to mayor and pressspokeswoman from the city.