“They just say No”

A conversation between the TWAB activists Mary and Njoku, who are presently living in the camp people call “Kattenturm” in Alfred-Faust-Straße , and Eva who does not live in a camp. Mary and Njoku are both mothers of small babies. The conversation took place in the beginning of autumn 2020, in Bremen.


Mary: When I came to Bremen I was 8 months pregnant. I arrived to Lindenstraße but then Lindenstraße was shut down due to the protests then and they said I should go to Kattenturm-Mitte. So I was in Kattenturm. To cut a long story short, after I gave birth, soon after my arrival, I went to Standesamt. My passport had delay because the lockdown was still affecting my embassy. They gave me a form to fill and for the father to sign, about Vaterschaft, and I gave everything to Standesamt and they said 2 weeks. So at first they said they want to investigate my birth certificate. Something I do not really understand. If it was a European birth certificate, would they investigate it? I can`t lie about my name, I can`t lie about my age, you saw it in the passport, so everything is fine. How can I lie about my birth certificate? The birth certificate is the number one right of every child. So if I bring Italian birth certificate or Greek birth certificate would they doubt or is it just because it is from Nigeria?

Eva: Just to get things right, all this was about your own birth certificate, not the baby`s?

Mary: Yes, this was about my own birth certificate. I went to see a lawyer. When the lawyer wrote to them they said okay, they want to investigate if I am married. So that they find out if I am lying about not being married. In Africa you don`t stay alone long, if you are 28 you have to be married already 5 or 6 years. This was what they thought and therefore they had to investigate. Because this was my first baby and I was never married before. And that is why they said they don`t believe me. Because being from Nigeria and with the age 27, 28, 29 – I am supposed to be married. And I said, I don`t understand.

Eva: Hm, so basically they said, in your age, this is not normal?

Mary: Yes, this is not normal, I was supposed to be married. This is why they want to investigate it. Ah and they said as there is no Standesamt in Nigeria, every document that comes from Nigeria is fake, is false, everything is fake. Even though the lawyer said I should take it to the court it will not have effect on my case because they do not believe anything from Nigeria. So that is racism. It is because I am black. Because I am black you don`t believe my documents coming from Nigeria. It`s fake, okay? Since then I have not heard anything from them. My child does not have any medical benefit, it does not have AOK health insurance. The other day they gave me a new format but the father cannot do anything without the birth certificate.

Eva: So there is the father and he is willing to do things?

Mary: Of course, everything is fine with him. We asked if he can insure the baby but without birth certificate he cannot do anything. So my baby is 4 months old and she is still not insured. The father is ready to take on every responsibility but he cannot do anything.

Eva: So on a legal term your baby still doesn`t exist?

Mary: Yes. There is only her name. I have no paper for her. Since 5 months I am now in Alfred Faust Straße. This camp is really terrible to live in. To start with the dining. Most days there are fights in the dining. To have a spoon is a problem!

Eva: They don`t give you a spoon for eating?

Mary: No. Only fork. You have to eat rice and everything with a fork.

Njoku: Yeah, but this is not always. Some of them do this. There is one woman when she is there everything is all right. But most of them they give it to you like this and when you ask for spoon they say go to Netto and buy one.

Mary: Yes, this is what they say when you complain, go to Netto. This is really terrible. You know this camp is an emergency camp. Mothers with children cannot stay there for long. But they don`t care. You can be there for seven or eight months, it is not their business. They tell you, without Duldung you cannot get a transfer to another place. It is an emergency camp. The food you get! Sometimes it`s raw, you cannot breastfeed your baby with it. You can`t cook there. This is really bad.

Eva: Yeah, this is terrible, not being able to prepare your own food.

Are there any special precautions going on because of the rising Corona infections?

Mary: Nothing. Everyday they bring new people. The place is crowded. Every day, every day, every day. You know Lindenstraße, with all these rallies, they do not keep too many people there now. But what they do now, they bring them to Kattenturm. Because no one knows and no one cares about Kattenturm, you know? Kattenturm is really crowded now. You wait everytime so long for everything

Eva: How many people are eating at the same time?

DIning room as empty as rarely (Photo: TWAB)

Njoku: They say only 20 people but sometimes you get there and you won`t have a seat. You have to go and come back later. The place is so crowded. At the beginning they said that people can take their food upstairs, because the dining room is really small. But later they do not allow it anymore and they say that everyone must eat in the dining at once.

Eva: You are not allowed to take food to your rooms?

Mary: No, only in the dining room, but it is really small. It is much too small for so many people.

Njoku: Before they let us have the food in a box and take it to eat it privately but later they just said No. Even if I say my baby is sleeping upstairs, please just let me take it. They just say No.

Eva: Do you have a room for your own with your baby?

Mary: Yeah, we have rooms only with the baby. We really got to do a rally in Kattenturm.

Eva: Are you many people there?

Mary: There are many black people there!

Eva: I am sure some people from outside will support if you want to start a rally with the people from the inside.

Njoku: They know that these babies don`t get social benefit, so when you are there to take milk for your baby it`s a problem. It is always a problem to get milk for your baby.

Eva: Because the babies are not registered for social they don`t give it?

Mary: They have pampers and milk to give but they don`t give it to you, especially not pampers.

Njoku: Or the milk, they don`t want to give it, or they just give you 400g. It is a small pack and you know when babies are growing, the more they grow the more they take. But they still only give you 400g a week but that lasts maybe 4 or 5 days. We don`t eat well there. Really. But they say you have to breastfeed your baby, there is no milk for you. Especially the AWO-workers.

Mary: Racism in Kattenturm is much now, people are not speaking out.

They don`t give out Pampers. In Lindenstraße they give out pampers, but in Kattenturm not.

Njoku: If you want to make milk for your baby… like my baby, two times a day now it takes Pre.The first baby milk, it is called Pre. But for two weeks now there is no Pre and they force you to take Number One, which the baby doesn`t take. And I have to go and buy Pre. Really I want Pre.

Eva: This is normal that you as the mother decide what to give to your baby…

Njoku: The Pre is 0 to 6 months, the number one is later, 10 months, it is thicker, so the small baby can`t take it.

Asking for baby milk is like going for a war.

Njoku: But let me also explain from the beginning. I arrived earlier this year and I went directly to the camp in Kattenturm. Normally they told me the quarantine was 2 weeks. But after one week they told me that it has to be 3 weeks. During these 3 weeks it was difficult for my little daughter because she couldn`t go out to play.

If you asked anybody to help you to get anything from outside, most of the time they say no. Sometimes I had to buy food from this Lieferando, maybe 7 Euros, to give my daughter something to eat. It was quite expensive, I couldn`t do it more than one time a week. After the quarantine, I went to see a doctor, and then I gave birth to my baby. Everything was good at the beginning, but then it became difficult because it wasn`t how it was at the beginning, that they would attend you when you have a problem. There is one thing they are always doing that is really wrong. When they are coming for “Zimmercontrol”. They won`t know anything like privacy, they just open your door, even if you are naked, it is not their problem. They just want to control if you have cups or spoons or anything you are cooking inside.

Eva: They don`t knock?

Njoku: No, they just enter. Even if the door is locked they just use their key. And if you complain it just goes to the back of their ears. Asking for baby milk is like going for a war. It needs so much courage to dare to say, I want milk, whatever it costs. And when you ask for that milk you have to explain a lot of things. They have to look at the date of the last time. If it is less than one week. And with the food also it is always a problem. You can ask for water or honey and they just say no. In the evening they just give you one tomato with 2 slices of bread. This is small, if you ask for more, they just say no. Or with my daughter. Often she is not hungry at 12, so I want to take the food and give it to her later, but they say no. She has to eat now or never. When you ask for a spoon they always make a problem out of it. The place is really annoying. They keep us there for long and most times they transfer other people. During July and August they transferred a lot of people and they don`t see that these babies and small children need it. At the beginning they didn`t even allow to have a cattle to boil water. And these babies need water for the flask. Only later they agreed on that. You are not allowed to prepare like carrots and such things for the baby. Normally I don`t like the bottled food from the supermarket because it is better to prepare it yourself and fresh for the baby.

Mary: It is just more expensive and there is no benefit for the baby. They don`t give you any money for the baby.

Njoku: I believe they must provide for these needs of the baby. The money must come from somewhere, I don`t think that they buy it with their salary. So when they are telling now that there is no Pre, I don`t know if there is really no Pre or, there is, but they just don`t want to give it to you.

Rally at Standesamt, September 2020

Njoku: And with the Standesamt this is just also causing so much problem. I had this bill from the Kinderarzt and I went to Social to see if they can help to pay the bill. And they say the father has to do that. But the problem is, which father? The one that they don`t accept? They asked me that the father has to make an insurance card for the baby. But the father cannot do that because the Standesamt gave me a certificate that only has the baby`s name but the father`s name is not in it. How can he make an insurance card with that? The Standesamt refuses to put his name in the birth certificate. Now, who is going to pay that bill for the Kinderdoctor? And who is going to make insurance? They already took away the right to have a father, so who is going to take that role? But then when the baby has a problem they say: go to the father! When he doesn`t have anything to show that he is the father. There is the Vaterschaftsanerkennung. But they still don`t accept it until there is the proof that I am not married. I can show a good reason that I am not married. I have a paper for Vaterschaftsanerkennung for my older daughter. A person who is married doesn`t have a Vaterschaftsanerkennung. It is either a marriage certificate or a Vaterschaftsanerkennungs certificate. So I have this to show that I am not married. But they still say no. And this is a document from Deutschland! It is not a fake document as they say all the papers are from my country. I did not bring this from Africa. This Vaterschaftsanerkennung was done here. So why do they still not accept it?

Mary: This is so wicked. And with this bill she has! They had to go to hospital, this bill is 200 and something Euros.

Njoku: How am I supposed to pay 260 Euros if I get only 140?

Eva: And how did that start in your case, at the Standesamt, all this “not-believing-you”?

Njoku: I went to the Standesamt after I gave birth and everything they asked me to give them, even a Ledigkeitsbescheinigung. Everything I gave to them, the passport, my birth certificate in translation. Everything I gave it to them and they told me 2 weeks. After 2 weeks they send me a letter that I have to provide a marriage certificate and a divorce certificate from the father. And I wrote them I was never married, I don`t have any marriage certificate. And because I was not married I also don`t have a divorce certificate. Then I gave them the Vaterschaftsanerkennung from my older daughter to show that

I did it before: to have a baby without being married.

And they write back that they didn`t accept it and that they have to verify that I was married and this will take time and money.

Eva: And did you understand how they are going to verify?

Njoku: I don`t know how they are going to verify. They didn`t give me any explanation on this. And this verfication if they are calling the Standesamt or place where the birth certificate was given in Africa, it will be fine. But what is not okay to go to the address where the person was registered when it was born. I mean look, let me explain, this baby is born in Bremen and it`s address is this camp in Kattenturm Mitte. Maybe later in the future she can move to Frankfurt or Berlin or anywhere and then anyone comes to Kattenturm Mitte to ask for her, who will know her? Who will know if she is married or not? Nobody! So this is a wrong verification if this is how they want to do it! Asking neighbours of this address? If they ask neighbours of the address where I was registered as a baby, they might not know me, as I left long time ago. But I think they don`t want to go to the Standesamt where we got our birth certificate because they know they would get a good information. But they simply don`t want to go there because they say we don`t have it.

Eva: But there is such a place?

Mary and Njoku are both laughing

Njoku: Of course there is. Since long time ago. Where the marriages are being done, the birth certificates. Each state has such a place. But they say that we are not having it. How can you say that when you are not in the country? The picture they have about Africa is that of long time ago, the same picture they built in their face. But that is not true! Some people just create such pictures. People not living in houses only hats… this is not true. They choose to live with the same pictures. Because even social media should let them know that Africa is no longer the way they think it is. But they don`t want to accept this. They don`t want to accept that we have a Standesamt. So there is this document, there is an address and a stamp on it. So if we don`t have offices like that with stamps, how do they think we make visa? Why is there a German embassy? They try to make all go back in the time they make it all look in a way that your information is just wrong.

They only want to proof us wrong and make things difficult.

Mary: The place where I was born is no longer existing. On the place there is a church now. So who are they going to ask? Will they walk around on the street asking do you know Mary? Is she married? Do you know Mary? That is nonsense.

Njoku: What is a child without birth certificate? Every child is entitled a birth certificate. No matter what.

Mary: The only reason I could imagine is that if I don`t have a passport then they could write in the field “Nationalität nicht nachgewiesen”, this is the only thing, but why would you not put the father`s name when we bring it. In the case of the older baby that was the case because I couldn`t bring a Nachweis that time. So, this is understandable. But they put the name and the fathers name. But this time, why do they make all this trouble? We gave them all the papers they wanted. They implemented this by themselves. If I had a German passport, none of this would happen to me.