‘They treat us like animals’ – Migrants complain about life in German asylum facilities

People line up for their meal in the initial reception center for asylum seekers in Halle/Saale, Germany, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
By Lucie Ctverakova
7 Min Read

Asylum seekers are complaining about “inhumane conditions” in German shelters, where they feel “like in prison.” Migrants are also claiming that the doctors who treat them, the police, and members of the security service are “racists.” From their point of view, staying in asylum facilities is a disaster, writes Focus weekly. The article is based on a study by political scientist Nikolai Huke of the University of Kiel, who studies living conditions in German asylum facilities.

Huke’s study is based on interviews with asylum seekers in Bremen, Hesse, Thuringia, Bavaria, Brandenburg, and Hamburg from October 2020 to February this year. The problem is that asylum facilities are overcrowded, and the number of refugees heading to Germany, many with an eye on Germany’s lavish social benefits system, is rising rapidly, Focus writes. By the end of September, approximately 100,000 applications had been received, which is 35 percent more than in the same period last year.

The results of Huke’s research were recently revealed in a report published by Pro Asyl. Although the experiences described are not representative and many migrants’ statements have not been verified, the survey results are still striking, writes Focus.

It seems like refugees do not see Germany as a safe haven, but as a banana republic, or an unjust state, the analysis says. Still, no migrants appear to have taken a voluntary deportation offer. In the interviews, asylum seekers make the most serious allegations against officials, police officers, or even doctors.

“It felt like a prison, like I was in a cell,” one of the asylum seekers in a hostel in Bremen describes.

“People don’t know what’s going on inside, it’s like Alcatraz in Bamberg,” the migrant says about his accommodation, comparing it to the infamous U.S. prison.

“They just open the door and come in. Without knocking, they invade our privacy… Even animals are not treated like that,” says another.

Allegations of racism

However, refugees also come with much worse accusations. According to them, officials, police officers, the security service, and even doctors are racists. Their only goal, according to the asylum seekers, is for the migrants to leave Germany.

“As a Black man, a security guard or administrator treats me very differently from how he treats others,” says one.

“Everyone in the facility knows that the doctor is a racist. He didn’t want to treat anyone, and when he did, it was very superficial, and he acted incredibly hostile. There are many cases where children were seriously ill with various types of inflammation or issues with livers, kidneys, and the like but could not go to the hospital. And then they had big problems. The fact that he was a racist was not only our impression but also the employees said so,” another migrant described.

One of the migrants also accused the police of racism.

“I went to the policeman and wanted to talk to him. He said, ‘Shut up.’ I replied, ‘Why should I be quiet? Because I’m a refugee?’ ‘Yes, because you are a refugee. Shut up!’ he told me,” the migrant recalled.

They want us to leave Germany

According to Huke, problems usually begin shortly after migrants arrive in Germany, specifically during an interview with the staff of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). Many asylum seekers complain of hostile treatment by officials.

“They talked to me as if I was not a human being … They don’t want to listen to you … They want you to leave Germany,” noted one refugee.

“It was not an interview, it was an interrogation. I didn’t understand what I had done for them to treat me so badly,” said a female migrant about the hearing at BAMF.

Many asylum seekers claim that the rule of law applies to them.

“I don’t know if there is a law in Bavaria that applies to everyone. The government should examine the activities of those who work as civil servants in offices. Many of them do not follow the law. They only do what they want,” claimed one of them.

Several asylum seekers interviewed complained about living in shelters. Most are bothered by limited space, lack of privacy, noise, stress, and sometimes life-threatening conflicts with other residents.

“Once a roommate threatened to cut off my head,” one migrant describes.

Another feared for his personal belongings: “You do not know where the person comes from. Some have been in prison, and you live in a room with a criminal. You must bring your laptop and documents with you whenever you eat. In the evening, a lot of people are drunk, consuming drugs, or arguing.”

One asylum seeker said he had “almost gone insane” in the hostel because there he had no “peace and quiet.”

“Children are screaming, families are talking very loudly, listening to music. That’s scary. And that’s why many get mentally ill,” he believes.

Almost all respondents also criticized the diet.

“We stand in line for food like some prisoners,” one complains.

“When we have rice, it’s so hard that you can break a tooth,” says another, while another added that “children are malnourished there because food is not rich in nutrients and is unacceptable to them.”

“Every time we entered the dining room, there was security. When the children wanted to take a piece of bread, a glass of milk, or a bottle of juice after dinner so that they could eat it later, they literally snatched the food from their hands and threw it in the basket,” one of the migrants claimed.

However, the research by political scientist Nikolai Huke was not so thorough that the truthfulness and legitimacy of all the allegations could be verified. The preface to his analysis states that the interviews were conducted “under the impression of trauma, tension, and constant stress.”

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