Susan Musimbi* came to Bremen from Kenya pregnant and with two children. At the ZAST, the camp in Lindenstraße, she experienced all kinds of harassment and four weeks of quarantine under hygienically and socially dangerous conditions. Susan Musimbi, 39, fled Kenya and came to Germany with two children on a Schengen visa. The father of her youngest child had lived in Bremen before. The interview was conducted by taz journalist Jan Zier. Its German version was published in taz bremen on 28. 12.2020
We as TWAB are printing an English version of the interview here so to give more people access to these words. Shut Down Lindenstrasse – Shut Down All Camps
FROM JAN ZIER
I came to Bremen in January to the initial reception in Lindenstraße. There we were all tested for Corona and had to wait ten days to see if there were any symptoms. But the situation in the facility was really bad and dehumanizing for us. Many people were sitting close together in the food hall, we had no masks and no disinfectants for a start, we couldn’t go outside either. We couldn’t do anything.
When these tests began, I lived with my two children, nine and eleven years old, together with two other women, each with one child, together in one room, so there were seven of us; I was also pregnant. I went to the Workers’ Welfare Association, which runs the initial reception, every day and asked them for another room, begged them. There are also smaller rooms for families – but I was turned down. Although there were still empty rooms. Later, I tested positive for Corona and so did my two boys. Despite the subsequent quarantine, we all used the same bathroom, the same toilets, the same sinks. What kind of quarantine is it where you don’t have your own room, your own toilet? And the windows were also closed all the time, so fresh air didn’t even come in. It was very difficult for pregnant women to keep their appointments with the doctor during the quarantine. They were canceled as long as they were not considered urgent. I was heavily pregnant myself at the time and my pregnancy was stressful, but I still wasn’t allowed to go to the gynecologist. It wasn’t important, they said at the camp. The next day, however, I had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance as an emergency. There they said: If I had come a day later, I might have lost the child. He was then born by cesarean section and is doing well. It did not test positive for Corona.
However, when I arrived at the clinic, I was not even allowed to use the bathroom and was instead referred to the toilet chair. Later, I was locked in my room. I felt stigmatized – partly because I am black, and partly because of Covid-19. After some time, however, they treated me better. I was hospitalized for a total of seven days. Meanwhile, my two boys continued to live alone Lindenstrasse, which was a bad experience for them. They were scared and traumatized and didn’t know what was happening. This is no way to treat children! Even after quarantine, they couldn’t talk to anyone at first, they had this stigma. I was in quarantine twice for 14 days in a row, so a whole month in total. That was devastating.
The security in Lindenstrasse treated us really badly, there was a lot of abuse and racism, I don’t even want to tell you all that. They yelled at us and treated us like children. They told us we had to wear masks – but they didn’t wear any themselves. And even when I was very pregnant, I was not allowed to use the elevator, even if I was heavy with water or something else. I always had to climb stairs, and they refused to help us. My children were always afraid of this security in Lindenstrasse, and they are also traumatized because of it. They didn’t understand why I was treated that way, why I sat there and cried afterwards. I told them there is nothing we can do, we can only wait and hope that things will get better.
Those who demonstrated for better living conditions in Lindenstrasse were then all moved to other transitional housing. I was also present at the demonstrations, but I was a little reserved because of my children and in order not to get into trouble. Because those who protested were subsequently harassed for it. Now I live in Ermlandstraße, we are doing much better there and the two boys go to school here now. The security in this transitional home is good and the social workers are also doing their best to help us. In 2021, I want to go to school myself and take a language course.
*real name has been changed