Mouctar D. has been living in camp Lindenstraße for 15 months. In the interview he describes why for him this place is hell. The interview was conducted by the journalist Benno Schirrmeister in French and published in German in the newspaper taz on 11.05.2020. We publish here a translated version of the German text.
Seit 15 Monaten lebt Mouctar D. in der Erstaufnahme des Landes Bremen. Im Interview erzählt er, warum er diese nur als eine Hölle bezeichnen kann. Das Interview führte der Journalist Benno Schirrmeister auf Französisch. Es erschien in deutscher Version in der Taz am 11.05.2020. Zum Originaltext geht es hier. Wir veröffentlichen hier eine eigene Übersetzung aus dem Deutschen ins Englische.
taz: Mr. D., what does it mean to celebrate Ramadan in Lindenstraße?
Mouctar D.: It’s a disaster. For once you don’t live there alone, but with a lot of people. There is no privacy there. Besides, the food is really not good.
Why is that more important than usual during Ramadan?
For us Muslims, it’s a holy month. You are not allowed to commit anything stupid during the whole month, prayers are especially important and you have to keep the fasting rules. If you are with a lot of people, many of whom are not fasting, if you have to share a room with non-Muslims, for example, or if they live right next door, then it is very difficult.
Well, the walls between the rooms do not reach the ceiling.
They’re just partitions?
Yes, temporary walls: So you can always hear what’s happening in the next room. And if you want to pray – five times a day – and there are people there listening to music or arguing: It’s annoying, for both sides, of course. None of us have chosen to live there and live there together. We are forced to be there together. It really gets you down.
You’re already experiencing your second Ramadan there: last year the density of people was much higher. Was it worse?
Of course it was worse in terms of housing and prayer times. There were many more people in the camp. But at least back then there was the breaking of the fast in the mosque: those from Lindenstrasse went there together to celebrate Ramadan. And there we could also eat. Because what is brought to the camp by the official side is simply disgusting. Rice that is not cooked properly, potatoes that are not yet done, chicken that smells as if it was already over …
Hasn’t that improved?
No: This is really inedible. I don’t even know how one can come up with the idea of putting such food on human beings. Fortunately, friends from “Together We Are Bremen” in the city cook for us and bring it to the facility. If they wouldn’t do that, I don’t know what I would do. I’ve never eaten at that camp during Ramadan.
You’re not the only resident fasting: Didn’t the caterer prepare for this?
Not at all. The people who fast get the same as the people who do not celebrate Ramadan. I find that inexplicable.
The breaking of the fast every night is a celebration…
It should be a celebration. And I think it should be respected. It’s a tradition that’s sacred. Of course you’re very hungry if you haven’t eaten all day. Sure, last year at the mosque, there was a lot of food in the evening. But here: Just looking at this food makes you nauseous. Phew.
You have just been released from quarantine. How did you get in there?
At first we demonstrated because we were afraid of the pandemic.
It was very early, even before the other government measures took effect: Why did you realise that Corona would be a problem in Lindenstrasse?
Everyone who wanted to see it should have seen it, including the Health Senator and the Social Senator Mrs Stahmann: on the one hand, everyone had noticed how quickly the epidemic had spread in China. And: We are accommodated there in a shelter with very many people. We have toilets and showers on one floor, which we have to use together. The rooms are not properly separated from each other, the air circulates in the facility – and ventilation is not possible. Even then, there was talk of the virus staying in the air for several hours, three or five. How could we not be infected? Especially since people from outside continued to be put into the camp. It’s no wonder the virus raged there like nowhere else in the city.
Yes, 170 people infected, about ten percent of all reported in the country – for the Senate this was unexpected?
No. Everyone knew what was going to happen here. We were almost all infected. I was one of the first to go into quarantine, for 14 days. Fortunately, I didn’t develop any symptoms: I am healthy. But I’m still sitting in Lindenstrasse.
Like the others?
No, this is strange too: At the beginning of the quarantine there were four of us in the room. One of us was transferred to Magdeburg, another to Gröpelingen. The two of us have to stay here, still, and to be honest, that annoys me a bit too: I have quite a few friends who have been given other housing-places here in Bremen. Not me. But I have been here for a long time. And my quarantine was over at the end of last week. When I tell the people from the AWO, of course they say, that they are not responsible, and that I should be patient, maybe it would be my turn tomorrow or on Monday. And that’s it then.
You can’t get any further?
No, not at all: I should just bear it. It’s really hard.
Is the building itself a problem, or will it be all right now when only 250 people live there?
This building was never intended to house people, I’m sure of that: the windows are tight, ventilation is completely impossible, we have to get drinking water from the bowls in the bathrooms, that might work for offices or as a makeshift – but for living? It really sucks here, excuse the expression, it really gets you down. This Lindenstraße is a hell.
That’s a harsh word.
Yes, but I have no other. I’ve experienced some really violent things on my way here. I’m from Guinea, I’ve crossed the desert on foot, I’ve seen things I can’t describe. It just still hurts too much. But coming here and then – I can hardly explain it. There are pregnant women and mothers with small babies there, just a few weeks old. They have to live there, cramped, like in a sardine can. What is this? Why are they doing this to us? It’s no good. It’s not good. It’s not good to treat human beings this way. It’s not…
Shall we take a break…?
No, let’s move on, excuse me. I am … And now imagine: 15 months in this place, a room that you have to share with others, but no room of your own, no privacy, no air to breathe, that is not normal.
But only a small group protested?
No, that is not true. Not all of the residents of course, some of them didn’t dare, and only a few were allowed to take part in the demonstrations afterwards anyway, because of the regulations. But most of them wanted to.
What do you mean with “some didn’t dare”?
They are afraid of repression: Those who live in Lindenstraße have no rights. There is no freedom of speech there. If you argue with an employee or a guard, they threaten you with transfer – either to another camp in Bremen, or to any other state.
But a transfer away from hell is not a threat?
Being forced out of Bremen would be a threat in itself: Bremen is a hospitable city. There are many people here who are open for immigrants. You come to Bremen because it is known and because you know that what you are planning is possible here. We come here with our hopes, our plans and goals. You want to make something of yourself. But they shatter your dreams.
What dreams did you leave Guinea with?
I wanted to go to school. I couldn’t do that at home because my mother wasn’t rich enough to pay for my education. I had also dreamed of becoming a soccer player. That was it: education and football. And a good job. That’s why I left my country. But now, here – I don’t understand my life anymore.
That’s it. I’ve been here in Lindenstrasse for over a year now, 15 months. I still don’t know if they’ll let me live here in Bremen or if I’ll be transferred to another city tomorrow. I’m really afraid of that, because I know so many people here now. I have friends, my football team. I went to school. I really do a lot to integrate myself – it’s as if I could never be enough. There’s always this fear in the pit of my stomach that tomorrow I’ll get the notice that I’m being transferred and I’ll have to start all over again.