Potsdam, 4th of June 2020
Breakthrough in a national debate: the city of Potsdam decides to abolish mass accommodations for refugees
As one of the first communes in Germany, Potsdam exits the previous mass accommodation policy. Brandenburg’s state capital, which is a member of the alliance “Städte Sicherer Häfen” (Cities of Safe Harbours), thereby sets a national example against mass accommodations and the inhumane practice they stand for.
Yesterday, on the 3rd of June 2020, an application¹ for creating a time and action plan for the abolishment of mass accommodations for the sake of apartments and apartment like housing was accepted with a great majority. The application was originally launched by the parliamentary group DIE aNDERE and eventually also signed by Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, Die Linke and SPD. 43 out of 53 of the attending city council members approved of the application – there were only 5 abstentions and 5 negative votes. The city administration is now in charge with providing apartments or apartment like housing for all refugees in Potsdam. From now on, it must be ensured that residents of the accommodations are not forced to share bedroom, kitchen and bathroom with people who are not part of their household. The city council assembly was accompanied by protest: Refugees Emancipation held a demonstration and gave out leaflets illustrating their demands². “Seebrücke Potsdam” and the “Migrantenbeirat” gave speeches in front of the city council assembly to support the application.
Criticism regarding the mass accommodations increased noticeably during the corona pandemic. The residents in cramped housing conditions are exposed to the risk of infection with COVID 19. The imposed quarantine measures did not only receive harsh criticism from politics and media. Open letters from Women in Exile and the refugee council of Brandenburg already pointed out the particular endangerment of people living in mass accommodations at end of March – thus before the implementation of the mass quarantines. Despite the difficult conditions due to the Corona measures hundreds of people raised their voices on the streets of Potsdam for the abolishment of mass accommodations.
A broad alliance of groups from all over Brandenburg, including self-organized migrant groups like Refugees Emancipation as well as activists of the Seebrücke movement, demonstrated for a healthy, self-determined living and protection of personal space.
Seebrücke-Activist Amari Shakur points out, that refugees and supportive groups have been fighting against the unbearable conditions in mass accommodations for decades and the decision for abolishment in Potsdam constitutes a breakthrough in the national debate. Shakur furthermore declares, that they will not give up and the decision has to be realised as soon as possible. “The worst mass accommodations must be closed immediately. We cannot wait until a second wave of the corona pandemic hits. Even without the danger of a pandemic: isolating, constricting and patronizing of humans must end.”
By protesting as a collective, the different groups of migrant and non-migrant organizations in Potsdam and Brandenburg come closer together. Even many residents of the mass accommodations in Potsdam and the state of Brandenburg organize protest and will not be intimidated.
“Politics should brace itself for the times to come – through the diversity of our activism, it is the strongest it has been for a long time. The fight for equal rights unites us and is still far from over. We came to stay!” Shakur emphasizes.