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Asylum seekers as pawns in the game of European power politics

Church Asylum turns 40 years old & Visit to Polish/Belarus border

Women in Exile and Friends are part of the International Sanctuary Declaration network. So this summer we took part in celebrating 40 years asylum in the German church.

The movement started in 1993, one year after the US sanctuary movement. In the two day conference, held on the 30.-31. August, the history of the international sanctuary movement was introduced, panel discussions and workshops were held, to find out how to improve the work of sanctuary and intervene in todays racist status quo, asylum seekers have to face.

Church Asylum

40 years ago the church in Berlin opened their doors for a Palestinian family in threat of deportation. It ended successful and many more followed. The churches have no right for churchasylums, it is only (or mostly) tolerated by the state and a result of the struggle for freedom of movement and protection for refugees – a religious commandment that is not negotiable. There are always attempts to criminalize the refugees and the leadership of the congregations or monasteries involved. In very rare cases, church asylum is also broken by the police: In July, a Kurdish family was taken out of church asylum in North Rhine-Westphalia and placed in deportation custody. After protests, the deportation was stopped.

In order to protect people from deportation, the church reports to BAMF that the persons are in their care. This can buy time to explore other chances for individual stay. In August 2023 655 persons are in churchasylum in Germany, 136 of them are children.

The conference had national and international delegates, who are involved in working with refugees especially in border crossing areas; where refugees risk their lives everyday trying to find safety. These included the borders of Poland/Belarus, Greek/Turkey, USA/Mexico, USA/Canada, Guatemala/Mexico.

International Sanctuary Delegation in Poland on the border with Belarus, 2023

Visit of EU Border

After joining the conference by facilitating a workshop and being on a panel, we took part in an observation delegation to the Poland/Belarus border, from the 01.-07. September.  This trip brought us in touch with different players supporting the people on the move, trying to cross the Poland/Belarus border. The reality of the permanent violent and sometimes deadly push-backs and the militarisation of this border was shocking.

We learnt of the dangers the people face trying to jump the high barbed walls, moving through densely, swampy and beautiful old forest. We saw how nature right and human rights are connected and both being trampled on by the militarisation: A 187 km long 5,5 m high fence cuts the forest, the wildlife and people apart. The border (not the people) is secured by every 50 m two soldiers with machineguns. Violent pushbacks and imprisonment of those who manage to cross the border are happening every day. The solidary people from the villages, activists and organisations trying to intervene to offer humanitarian aid to them, are criminalised, labelled as smugglers and threatened with imprisonment.

Polish-Belarus border fence

Thus, they operate in fear and we could feel this fear ourselves because of the many police check-points and the presence of military vehicles moving all over in the borderlands. This does not stop the refugees from coming and also not stops the activists and humanitarian groups doing interventions in these hard conditions. But it increases the dangers they have to face. Refugees are pawns in a wider conflict of the EU politics. They are trapped because Polish do pushbacks to Belarus and Belarus tries to force them back towards Poland. Delegating the dirty job to the countries on its external borders does not absolve German and the rest of Europe of responsibility for this tragedy. The violence at the external EU borders legitimises and creates more and more right-wing organisation and violence in the EU – it needs to be stopped. 

Solidarity instead of EU Terror: 
Women in Exile and Friends Picnic Bus Tour through Berlin and Brandenburg, 
28th–30th July 2023

Women in Exile is going on a bus tour again: This year we will stay home in Brandenburg. After networking worldwide with our international conference last year, this year we want to gather our forces and continue our struggle locally.
The current refugee policy from EU to the local districts makes us mad—open racism on all levels: Brandenburg minister and the district councillors wants to isolate refugees with so called “bad prospects” of staying in camps for up to 24 months. 

At the airport they want to build a camp similar to those the EU imagines to build at the EU Borders: a fast asylum procedure camp deporting people before they even legally enter European soil. This is not systematic neglect any more. This is the war on refugees!

But we’ll keep on fighting, keep on walking, marching up to freedom land! Come and join our Bus Tour, to practice solidarity together instead of tolerating the EU Terror!

We are going to visit the Lagers in Eisenhüttenstadt, Wünsdorf and Doberlug-Kirchhain from the 28.-30. of July. We want to have a picnic in front of the camps, invite the women*, get to know them, exchange ideas.

We will also strengthen our local network  structures in Brandenburg with an overnight stay and visit of solidarity projects.


On 20.5.23, our group together with Border Forensics, International Women Space and
Refugee Libya Emancipation participated in Sea-Watch’s congress that took place in Schloss
Wahlsdorf, Luckenwalde.
We showed a small part of our last bus tour film “Women moving against lagers and Racism”
-due to the short time each group had for its input- as we went further talking about our
group’s history, work, goals, achievements, and challenges.
We followed the other groups’ work and history through their PowerPoints and film
presentation, and we were also able to see and understand from a summary of the distress
cases witnessed, the number of operations conducted, boats that were being spotted at sea etc.
The participant from the Refugee Libya Emancipation conducted his input virtually and he
shared in addition to his group’s input, how he survived the brutality routes as he was seeking
After the input and a short break, we participated in the small discussion groups that were
created for open discussions, questions and strategizing on how we can continue supporting
one another to ensure the freedom of movement for all!

Hohenleipisch Report

On 8th March 2023, at the invitation of die Grünen in Brandenburg, WiE & F joined their delegation of 4 women led by parliamentary leader Petra Budke to visit the asylum accommodation of Hohenleipisch, in the Elbe-Elster Landkreis of Brandenburg. We went there because on 20th June 2019, our sister Rita was found dead and covered in burn marks 300 meters from the Lager, after going missing on 7th April 2019. She was 32 years old with two children under 4 years old.

At Hohenleipisch, we met with the Landkreis’ Sozialamt (social welfare office) which is responsible for the Lager and the Diakonie, which currently manages the Lager. The purpose of the meeting was two-fold, to talk about our sister Rita and talk about the conditions of women and children now living in the Lager. This is what we learned. 

The investigation into Rita’s death

As reported by the media at the time, were already concerning delays and red flags in the way the police conducted their searches after Rita was reported missing. Since Rita was found dead in 2019, there have been barely any progress in the criminal investigation led by Oberstaatsanwalt Gernot Bantleon in Cottbus into her suspected murder. We also received confirmation at our meeting that key actors such as the Sozialamt and the key suspect (who has since gone AWOL) have never been contacted by the investigators. We were not able to talk more about Rita as the Diakonie refused to speak about her case. In this sense, our meeting was not fruitful. 

Continue reading Hohenleipisch Report

International women’s week and our 08.03 event in Eiseinhüttenstadt

We took part in the kick-off event of the 33rd Brandenburg Women’s Week (der 33. Brandenburgischen Frauenwochen 2023) on Thursday 2nd March 2023 with the beautiful slogan of “bei uns doch nicht”. But in our speeches marking different events in Berlin and Brandenburg, we did say, “bei uns doch”. This is because of the following facts, which refugees face in Germany and at the European borders:

The number of attacks on refugee shelters in Germany is on the rise again. In 2022, there were at least 121 attacks – an increase of 73% compared to the previous year. So there are many many more! This is a direct consequence of the European war against refugees. We are presented as a threat in parliaments and laws.

Continue reading International women’s week and our 08.03 event in Eiseinhüttenstadt

We are the Godmothers of Sea-Watch 5

Dear Sea Watch Crew, dear friends from all partner organisations, 

It is an honour and joy to share in this great event and being the godmothers of Sea Watch 5.

We are women in Exile, a refugee womens group organizing for our rights in Berlin-Brandenburg, and we want to bring our thanks. 

Some of us came by plane, others of us crossed mountains, deserts and seas, with all their beauty turned into deadly borders. Some who started the dangerous journey with hope, perished before fulfilling their dreams. So in all our joy and celebration we will not forget our deep sorrow and anger: It is the responsibility of German and European governments for implementing a racist migration regime that is abusing the Mediterranean to harm and kill so many of us!

As women who crossed borders we appreciate the work you have been doing for the last 5 years: Saving people from distress in stormy high seas, with the risk of getting into distress yourself, or of being criminalised, prosecuted and jailed by the authorities. You are one important part of a global solidary network. And we celebrate in deep joy the successes and thank you from our hearts for your sacrifices and those of yours partners. We are proud to witness the growth of your fleet because we know through this, many more lives will be saved from distress. 

As godmothers we will continue to fight for the rights of those who are lucky to reach the shores of fortress Europe, especially women and children who are more vulnerable to these dangerous journeys.

Safe journeys for you and may you find our brothers and sisters in distress, so you can bring relief. May you be protected from criminalization and always have a hand’s breadth of water under your keel.

For the right to come, the right to go and the right to stay!

Humanity instead of a Bureaucracy of neglect

On 14.09.2022, we did a follow-up visit to the family of A. from Syria, who has been
living in a Lager in Gusow-Platkow in Märkisch-Oderland, Brandenburg. We reported the
the situation of family A. to the Brandenburg Social Minister, Frau Nonnemacher and the
Integration commissioner of Brandenburg, Frau Lemmermeier, during our meeting as
members of the network of the Strategy Group on Housing.
We encourtered this family during our Lager visit in April 2022. Our follow-up visit was
delayed by the planning and execution of our «International Summer conference» in early
August. During this follow-up visit, we realised nothing has changed and actually the family
thought we had forgotten them.
In our last Newsletter nr. 25, we reported how this family is living in a miserable and difficult
conditions, in an old bungalow, with their three disabled family members in wheelchairs.
When it is raining, water drips in and some dangerous insects sometimes find their way
The pictures and short video attached to this report show how this family lives.

We aim and wish to see this family assisted not only in getting a barrier-free flat and
professional people to help the mother in the daily care of the disabled children but also in
getting their right to stay. This is just one case of many, showing, that we need
humanity and not a Bureaucracy of neglect.

Health care for all without discrimination!

During our “Summer Bus tour 2021” in north Deutschland, one of our stops was Bremen.
In Bremen, we met refugee women from “TogetherweareBremen, a group of refugee women
fighting for the right to Birth Certificates for their children. whom we got into contact with,
before the tour.
We held a peer-orientated empowerment workshop where we discussed together the
possibilities of claiming the rights to obtain birth certificates of our children born in this
country by challenging asylum laws and demanding our children’s rights.
We later participated in a podium discussion on health and maternal rights, which Medibüro, Bremen, organised. It was very sad to listen to women living in different parts of
Germany who have and were experiencing the same problems with discrimination of the
identity of their children and health rights. It shows how the asylum laws are discriminative
and racist.
Here is a video of the discussion that took place;


Every year, W.i.E&F holds a summer action about our fight and demand ” NO LAGER FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN”. In this regard, last year we did a Bus tour to northern Germany where we visited different lagers to ascertain the current situation and bring to light the current situation of women and children in these Lagers. We carried the motto “Women moving against Lagers and Racism” as we brought our voices to these different places and served as a tool to make public what we know to be true to the public. With this, we filmed a documentary showcasing the different places and talked with the women from their points of view. 

We hope this Documentary will serve its purpose as a call for all to denounce the Racist Lager system.


Report From our visit with Women from Cecosesola

On the 29th of August, we W.I.E&F had the pleasure of hosting Ana Maria and Ana Mildred from Cecosesola (Central Cooperativa de Servicios Sociales del Estado Lara), a non-hierarchical solidary of cooperatives in Venezuela at our space in Hermannstr 22. They were in Germany for an exchange programme that takes place every two years and this is the third time they are having an exchange with Germany.

They also participated in our International conference that took place from the 4th to the 7th of August. The reason for this meeting was not only to visit with each other but to also exchange experiences in our fields of work. The meeting was arranged by our good network from Ulenkrug who among others were hosting them After a few good laughs, we were able to listen to them with the help of three translators who translated from English to Spanish and vice-versa.

Cecosesola is 54 years old, born out of necessity. They work in the cultivation of food and its distribution. Providing the food that they cultivate to the poorer communities at a lower price than the current market Price. They have 26 selling points with the major parts being open from Wednesday to Saturday which makes distribution the most significant part.

They provide Health care services in which a Health Centre was built in 2007. For this to be realised, they were able to get an interest-free loan from a cooperative since they could not afford a bank loan. 

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