Open letter to Innere Mission and Bremen public

On several occasions in the last couple of months, the Jugendamt Bremen decided to use violent methods to transfer minor refugees from the camp in Steinsetzer Strasse – a camp being run by Innere Mission – to places far away from Bremen. In agreement with the Social Senator, the police were brought in early in the morning and these young boys were handcuffed all the way as the police drove one of them to Brandenburg.

Contrary to your call of duty to protect the youths under your care, you, who run the camp (just as you did before in Gottlieb-Daimler-Strasse Camp) opened the door to the Jugendamt workers and the big police group to handcuff and drag the boy away against his free will. The others in the camp had to watch this horrible experience and wondered who will be next.

Furious about this, Together We Are Bremen called for a protest in front of your offices at Blumenthalstrasse with the slogan: Innere Mission, shame on you! We shouted this slogan because it clearly reflects your ugly track record in dealing with refugees in Bremen and in this very instance because you behaved as if you were yourself, the police and a camp guide. Nevertheless you should be reminded that you are care workers for these youths and your primary duty is their well beingand the development of their self-determination. It is unimaginable that you can classify the violence on these youths, which you fully aided and supported as being part of your duty. You must realize that a legal order to handcuff and apply violence against minors who were neither a threat nor danger to anybody is wrong by all standards.

Pictures of our protest action in front of the Innere Mission (02.04.20)

On 4th February during our protests at the front of your offices, you cowardly hid inside. You could not summon the courage to face us and answer our questions or come out to defend your atrocious behaviour. Instead you wrote an insulting email the following day to justify it. In this email you did not even mention the handcuff incidents. You complained that we were speaking up against your behaviour and demanded fair treatment of the young Black refugees. And that everybody in Innere Mission would always be respectful, full of empathy and act professionally to the youths under your care. That racism is never part of your actions or structures. Further you corrected the words we use: we should not call Steinsetzerstrasse a camp (Lager).

This clearly shows, that the leadership and communication personnel of your institution at Innere Mission are yet to learn the first basic lesson of human respect and decency: listening to the aggrieved, hearing what their grievances are and dealing with them to the best of your ability. It is well known that there is a number of your staff that totally disagrees with the way you deal with these youths and refugees in these camps. At the same time, you have large number of your staff who are tasked with manipulating refugees and convincing them that where they are being transferred to is better than in Bremen – when in most cases that is clearly false. Two years ago, your staffs were actively pushing some of these minors into the asylum system or compelling them to accept the transfers and leave Bremen. You aided and supported their exclusion from the social system as many of them were pushed to the streets and became homeless.

Further, there seems to be more efforts to polish your public image rather than address the substantive complaints of racism and violence that your institution is perpetuating against minors and refugees in Bremen.

Our letter is to give you another chance to listen to what we, who had to live in Steinsetzerstrasse; we, who suffered and endured the inhuman conditions of your camp at Gottlieb Daimler Strasse and other camps in Bremen feel about these places; we, who are threatened by TRANSFERS, and we, who continue to suffer the RACISM of your institution, think about the situation.

It`s not only about the forceful and violent transfer of these youths, although this has become the height of your lack of responsibility and good work ethics required for an institution working with young people. We will also draw attention to the poor conditions in your facilities, ranging from the food to the crowded rooms. The meals you serve young people in your care are very poor and not fit for required human survival. We have seen that you failed to consider the demands and needs of the young people under your care, as their complain about the miserable and routinely served dinner is never looked at. Your accommodations are over crowded with up to four persons in one room. Lack of privacy due to this overcrowding is a problem in your facilities. It is no wonder that your facilities are labelled CAMPS because, they feel and smell like CAMPS. What is more? You treat normal human beings like camp-dwellers! But we don’t want our youth lives to be destroyed in your camps, so do away with them now. The companies located behind the camp make lot of noises in the wee hours, which disturb the serenity of the surrounding, and thus making a good night sleep for most residents difficult. This is something you have failed to address and never shown any concern for because you live in your comfortable houses with proper sleep.

It`s a grave concern that multiple state institutions are implicated in the violation of the rights of these minors in Bremen. This combination can be deadly as we saw in the murder of Laye Condé years ago. Here sadly, we see the involvement of the Police, the Politicians, the Social Senator, the Jugendamt, and a very willing accomplice in the Innere Mission. The dubious and ill advised, so-called medical test and age determination of minors coupled with the forceful transfers are endangering the welfare of these minors. It can all be re-traumatising as shown by various professional reports and organisations including Diakonie, your Umbrella organisation. Yet, you decided not just to participate but actively support it. Yes, Innere Mission, Shame on you!

And for the Social Senator who prides herself on winning an award for the way she treats refugees in Bremen and yet allows 6-7 adults to be packed in a single room without windows at Lindenstrasse camp, her support for this is hardly surprising. Her love for camps is an enduring one after overseeing Gottlieb Daimler Strasse Camp. The only question is would she allow her own children to be treated like this? Or is this simply okay because they are the Others? Your guess is as good as ours!

From Together We Are Bremen, we remain committed to: Stand up against injustice – Shut down all camps – No more transfers and we demand housing and access to education for everyone. We call on Bremen to truly be a solidarity city and a really safe Harbour and not just in name alone!

More information about the context and the press coverage (unfortunately, all in German):
Flüchtlingsrat Bremen: Jugendamt lässt Handschellen anlegen (Pressemitteilung 15.01.20)
taz (16.01.20): Kindeswohlgefährdung in Bremen: Jugendliche in Handschellen
Weser-Kurier (16.01.20): Flüchtlingsrat kritisiert Bremer Jugendamt
taz (05.02.20): Protest gegen Innere Mission
Weser-Kurier (13.02.20): Abtransport minderjähriger Geflüchteter in Handschellen in Kritik
taz (15.02.20): Gewalt als Ultima Ratio