In May 2018, the participants from Spain, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Kenya, Germany, Republic Dominica and Estonia were in Berlin for a (I)migration + Action = Global Reaction Study Visit. The study visit focused on the global movement of people. They aimed at getting a better understanding and knowledge of of the field of immigration studies, covering issues regarding analyzes immigration issues in Germany and global population movement.
One week packed with activities and meetings with interesting people and organizations. The purpose of the trip was that the participants get experience and with our own eyes see the situation of immigration in Berlin, Germany and to further spread knowledge about the problems and opportunities.
The Host Organisation, Vokietijos Lietuvių Jaunimo Sąjunga (VLJS) welcomed us and gave us an introduction to what Germany is doing in the country and what it looks like for the migrants. Germany is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Like all EU member states Germany is bound by the Convention on the Status of Refugees. The convention defines refugees as those who face persecution in their home country based on religion, race, sexuality, membership of a particular social group, or for holding certain political beliefs. Germany has a duty to these people not to subject them to discriminatory laws and to offer them the chance to assimilate.
During the remaining days we got the opportunity to visit the former of Berlin Airport, Tempelhof. At the beginning of the 1920s, Tempelhof airport was built on the site. After the airport closed in 2008, the city of Berlin reclaimed the 386-hectare open space and one of the world’s largest buildings in a central location for public use. We also visited Tentaja and Tamaja NGO, located in old Tempelhof Airport. The complex history of Berlin’s closed airport used as a refugee shelter and sport center. The NGOs also offer a number of weekly educational, social and cultural activities to welcome and support migrants and refugees in a safe environment. They run language classes, sports classes and creative classes at Tempelhof.
We visited Berliner Stadtmission, NGO based in Spandau, Germany. The organization created “Das Begleit Program”, the project brings volunteers, refugees and immigrants together to join the cultural activities, language coaching, interactive cooking, workshops and much more. The basic values of the project are trust, reliability, self-commitment, respectful interaction with each other and openness to other cultures. The principle is learning from each other at the same level so that we can learn from each other on an equal footing. These are their every day activities before they get their asylum status approved.
We had a chance to experience Deutsch Language Class and cultural exchange for immigrants and refugees. At the core of this program are language and cultural exchange courses and events. It’s the key for helping migrants and refugees to feel integrated into the city where they just moved to.
We also spent afternoon program with refugees and immigrants in Spandau while enjoying traditional meals which we cooked together. We learned that food is an important part of any culture. Foods that come from other cultures may also be distinguished to maintain the group identity. The menu we ate together was a combination of Asian noodle food, Middle Eastern rice with chickpeas, European desserts and drinks. These menu combinations created a various of identity memories. Even though the menu mixes are different, we enjoyed the meals while listening to refugees struggle stories. It is the interaction, networking, and learning from each other that will ultimately help us to drive positive changes and to create communities that is valuable, supportive, and thriving on cultural diversity.
The impressions from the trip are extremely numerous. The visit confirmed that grassroots initiatives and efforts are indispensable to the refugees response, even in a country with an established and functioning reception process for asylum seekers. The innovation that these small and smart organisations have brought to their field is immense to the people especially refugees and asylum seekers who live far away from their home to continue living and integrating in their new environment.
The next day we spent our day to walk around the city center, and had the chance to learn more about Berlin’s history from our free walking tour guide. We walked for about 3 hours around city center and listened to story that the guide told us. It was really interesting, in the end we got to learn a lot about bright and dark sides of the city and how Berlin is still recovering from the war up until now.
Written by : Tria and Hermanto