This morning I get up to accompany a Moroccan-Syrian couple to their appointment at the LaGeSo. I find it very strange that they have an appointment today, since I had heard the building was closed during the holidays. But I saw the paper, it’s written “28.12”. Naturally, no time is specified. Abdel, the husband, has been queuing in one of the tents since 5am. Fatima and I are trying to figure out whether we can join him once his number will be called: there are two tents, one for men, one for women and children. For the moment we are outside.
Back in the summer I had witnessed the rude attitude of the security by the LaGeSo. It led to many complaints from most of the volunteers back then, and still does, months afterwards. This morning I can measure again how little this has changed. They parade like peacocks, looking down on people and seemingly very proud of the power they have over everyone. As far as I can see, there is no woman among them. Maybe they are positioned elsewhere but what I see is just a bunch of bullies with red jackets.
When we arrive, Fatima finds out where exactly her husband is. He is in the men’s tent. From what we can see, people are crushed on one another, pushing from all sides. Some heads appear over the fences, inside the tent. The look on people’s face is that of exhaustion, tiredness, and shame. Abdel’s number will soon be called, so I ask the security whether it’s possible for Abdel to give us a sign – we see his tent from where we stand – and for us to join him. The security man tells us to ask the guards on the side entrance. Off we go. Two minutes later, I ask the same. The guard of the side entrance reluctantly comes over to listen to me – I interrupted him showing something apparently funny on his smartphone to two colleagues. Still, because I’m not a refugee, he comes over. He sends me back to where I first asked. Upon me telling him his colleague sent me to him, he doesn’t care. Go back there, he says. The voice is impatient this time.
We go back, there must have been a shift change, the guard to whom I talked first is no longer here. Instead, I see one of his colleagues pushing children’s arms back into the women and children’s tent, and zipping the door up again. I can’t understand what he tells them, he speaks in Arabic, but obviously he tells them to stay in. He’s not as rude as the other men from the security, yet what I see is a man pushing away children’s arms. He does that without showing the slightest emotion. When he’s done, I ask him to come over. Again, upon seeing I’m not “one of them”, he complies, although reluctantly. I explain to him our situation. He wants to send us back to the left entrance we just left, I told him his colleague sent us back here again. “Really? Well, try to the right then”, is his answer. I know better than to argue, we try our luck on the opposite side. This time only to find two guards, laughing together. When I interrupt them to ask where exactly we’re supposed to go, one of them snaps back “It’s not my problem! Go away!”. I look at him, saying nothing, for a long time, until he looks at his feet. “Is it necessary to be rude, I just asked you a question!”, I say. His colleagues looks around, awkwardly. I ask him “And to you, is that possible to talk, or are you equally rude?”. He’s laughing now, because he doesn’t know any better. But I can see he’s ashamed. He tells us exactly what the other guards told us. Go left, no go right, not this entrance, try again tomorrow”. I thank him and as I’m about to leave a Syrian man standing behind me asks me in English: “Please Miss, are you French?”. He overheard me speaking in French with Fatima. I answer positively. He goes on: “Ah, French people are so polite, they are so much better than the Germans! No one likes the security here, they’re horrible you know!”. I know. But I tell him German people are far from being like the LaGeSo security, and also that no matter how rude those people are, France doesn’t do half as much for refugees as Germany does. Still, he has this image of a beautiful France in mind, and somehow I’m sorry I’m shattering this. I have to go back to point zero with Fatima. Back on a side entrance, I see one of the interpreters helping at the train arrivals entering the building. Out of stress, I can’t remember his name and my voice isn’t strong enough so he doesn’t hear me calling him.
Then I see Christiane. She’s one of the core members of Moabit Hilft. I hadn’t seen her since the summer, but we stayed in touch through social networks. She recognizes me from my posts. As soon as she comes over, twenty people show her their paperworks and ask her for advice. One by one, calmly, politely, and with a firm voice, she addresses all matters. I can’t barge in, the questions I hear are more important than my simple “how to get in?”, but after five minutes, she says “just talk to me!” as she can see I’m waiting. Just like at the train arrivals, we talk, while several other people around us keep on asking us questions. They can’t respect our conversation because the urgency of their situation drives them, they need answers to keep going.
Christiane advises us to go to Caritas. Off we go. I see some familiar faces there, I explain Fatima’s situation. The six weeks in the inflatable shelter, her sickness, the appointments constantly being postponed. They can’t do anything here either. Fatima needs to see a doctor and to come back with a certificate. I ask what good is that certificate if we can’t even find a way in the building? They don’t know. Come back tomorrow.
We make our way out of the Caritas building. Abdel is out the tent, as well. He managed to enter the building. Only to find out his appointment was postponed, again, to the end of January. For twenty days, they will have to wait in the inflatable shelter, with no other prospect than that of the new appointment, for which they will have to get up before sunrise, with no guarantee their case will be examined on the said day.
As we walk out of the LaGeSo, Fatima turns towards me: “I’m so sorry you had to come for nothing, please forgive me”, she says. I just hope she and all the other people being treated worse than animals in Europe will one day forgive us all for what we’re putting them through.