How is the hostel life at KIITs

Refugees in Berlin : Temporary hostel: life on hold

Berlin - Mehringdamm at the subway station of the same name is a Kreuzberg focal point and tourist hotspot at the same time. A never-ending stream of cars and people passes by the mixture of currywurst, vegetable kebab, cabaret, Urberliner pub, techno club and tax office. The backdrop could be a set for a Berlin lifestyle advertisement. What do the many people want here? Most of them rush to the subway or stand in line at the fast food stand.

Others stay at the Metropol, which is located in the historic business palace at number 32. The hostel advertises for guests with “Charming - Cheap - Central”. Little comfort, a little shabby, but with the Kreuzberg experience on the doorstep, you can read in the Internet reviews. The reception consists of a lobby with synthetic leather sofa sets. A boy is sitting in front of the television with his cell phone. Wine-red curtains frame the view through high windows on the Wilhelminian style facades. Two young women drink coffee and bend expectantly over the Berlin map.

The hostel has been hosting refugee families since 2015

They don't know that there are people in their hostel who have been living in the multi-bed rooms for years. Sometimes these permanent guests stand in front of the entrance gate and smoke, sit on the benches in front of the tax office or come from school and laboriously open the heavy iron door of the large gray house.

In addition to budget tourists, the Metropol Hostel has also been hosting refugee families with a right of residence since 2015. “Some guests don't like the fact that there are also refugees here,” replies the bar clerk dismissively when asked how coexistence works. Fearing that their presence could be detrimental to business, the hostel administration tries to keep the points of contact with the tourists to a minimum. On the other hand, the new residents bring the hoteliers a reliable additional profit, since the Senate and district offices have been accommodating asylum seekers in hostels and pensions for five years due to the lack of suitable accommodation.

It was intended as an emergency and temporary solution, but at least a thousand people across Berlin are still living in the hostel. The responsibilities vary - depending on the residence status - between the state and district and finally the job center. The "status changed", the official term for asylum seekers with a right of residence, receive their benefits according to the Social Security Code, ie via Hartz IV. The job center pays 25 euros per person for one night in the hostel. Large families collect large sums of money.

At least 1000 refugees live in the hostel across Berlin

The thirteen-year-old Arkan, whose nine-member Yazidi family fled Iraq from the IS terrorists, doesn't understand: his parents have been looking for an apartment on their own for three years and even had a few promises. But the accommodations were too expensive according to the social security code. “But the hostel costs 7,000 euros a month for us!” Arkan reckons. “The apartment 1700 euros. Why don't we get the apartment? "

According to Hartz IV guidelines, the rent would be 530 euros too high. Cheaper apartments for Arkan’s family will hardly be found in Berlin, because a minimum size of 81 square meters for the family of nine has to be adhered to. And in the current housing situation, hardly any landlord in Berlin gives out his apartment to so many people for 1170 euros gross rent. However, the 7,000 euros for the 30 square meters where Arkan's family now lives are legal. That is the absurd and incomprehensible situation for many refugees in Berlin hostels.

Arkan's big sisters Shilan and Jilan are already in high school. Jilan is about to graduate from middle school, and 19-year-old Shilan also has a lot to learn for the exam in the high school center. After graduation, she wants to work in the health sector. Learning is very difficult in the cramped room with the little siblings. She often goes to the nearby America Memorial Library. “But after school everything is often already full there,” she says.

Seven years have passed since her family fled their village to the Sinjar Mountains at the last second, always in fear of death, thirsty and starving. They survived a year and a half in a tent in a Kurdish refugee camp and then dared to flee via Turkey to Greece. The overstaffed rubber dinghy was discovered shortly before capsizing and the 62 people, many children with their parents, were barely rescued.

Finally arriving in a life without a makeshift

When Shilan tells her story, a veil falls over the faces of the little siblings as well. As a Yazidi minority, there is no way back to Iraq for them, Germany is their future. Fortunately, the family is safe and healthy, and the children have arrived safely at school and in their surroundings. Just a little peace and quiet, an apartment of his own, that is also the wish of the father, who cleans the subway stations on night shifts when he is poorly paid. You want to finally arrive in a life without a makeshift solution.

It is the same with Dilan * and her family. The 35-year-old is also a Yezidi from Iraq and has lived with her five children on Mehringdamm for two years. Her husband fled a year earlier and now works as a camp helper on night shifts in Hanover. During the day he looks for an apartment for his family. Dilan and her husband, like Arkan's family, have made a horrific escape, but they are optimistic and look ahead. “Everything is fine here. Just the room ... “, says Dilan. "The room makes you old."

She sleeps on the floor, which is more convenient for her. The children lie on double bunk beds and the free mattresses are used as wardrobes. They learn and read there too, because there is hardly any space in the room, just a small desk with exercise books and a laptop that everyone is proud of. "My children like Berlin, but not the room."

Despite these circumstances, they are good at school and learn a lot. On the wall hang notes with grammar exercises, timetables and also a Germany flag with the inscription: We love Germany. The family has escaped death and is hoping for their chance in life. “We respect the rules here. We want to keep our side white so that we can live in peace, ”Dilan says in translation of a Kurdish idiom.

"Don't think much, go out"

She wants to work. “Cleaning, cooking, it doesn't matter, I'm healthy.” What does she like to do best? “Run, see, laugh, nature!” After the German course, she meets with the other mothers to go shopping or at the bank in front of the tax office. "Don't think about it much, go out." Then she takes the pots and walks down the stairs and corridors to the shared kitchen of the hostel.

It is already late because there is a ban on kitchens from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. During that time, the cooking facilities belong exclusively to tourists. Then the women of the twelve refugee families living here meet at the few hotplates. There is also a man among the cooks: Ahmed, a Palestinian guest worker from Saudi Arabia. He has five children aged four to 20 years. Because he did not want to give in to the increased demand for money from his Saudi “protector” prince, he had to leave the country headlong with the children, but without their mother under national law.

The fact that he cooks for his children here is unusual for the other women. But what should he do? The children need food. Ahmed also works night shifts. When the children are in school and daycare, he tries to sleep. "Then go shopping for lunch and cook." It has been going on for three years now. Ahmed says he feels like he is in a can of tuna in this fourth floor room. The children are jumping around, sitting in front of the television and constantly calling for him when he tries to get some sleep.

Otherwise everything is fine, beautiful streets, the neighborhood, the school nearby, and the hostel owner is a friendly man too. “He would like us to stay here and offers us another room. But we need a real apartment with a kitchen. ”Ahmed doesn't understand why he wasn't allowed to move into empty containers on Tempelhof airfield or on Alte Jakobstrasse. There would at least have been a separate kitchen and two rooms.

State Office for Refugees doesn't know anything about the hostel

Answers to questions like these cannot be obtained from the district office. The State Office for Refugees knows nothing about the Hostel Metropol as accommodation for persons entitled to asylum, the district is responsible for this. After weeks, an email comes from the district press office: There are no numbers on the refugees living in hostels because they are scattered across all districts. But since 2018 the Senate for Integration, Labor and Social Affairs has been working on the “city-wide control of housing for the homeless”, through which the quarters are to be centralized. Then standards for accommodation should also be set.

Some connections can be read in a current “Study on the Situation of Refugee Families in Berlin”. Accordingly, apart from minimum structural standards, there are no specifications for the cost-intensive space in the hostel, including the right to breakfast, bed linen, play and common rooms. Official controls of the accommodations have not yet taken place due to a lack of staff.

There are no complaints from the families about the hostel owner. He would make the best of the situation and be helpful, say Arkan's parents. Families can also use the breakfast room for birthdays. And he lets the children play in the lobby. “Here is better than dorm. No visitors are allowed to come. It's freer here, ”says mother Nisan. But since the owner is busy with new projects and business and has been there less often, the children are often pushed out of the lobby by some employees, the only common room. The children are too loud. “They never let us play,” says Sivoun. So they meet in the long, dark corridors.

Sidra is also there, a twelve-year-old, thoughtful Kurdish Syrian woman. She was previously in the hangar at Tempelhof Airport. In the memory she liked it better there because the whole family was still together. Only her four siblings and her parents are left in the Metropol. She misses her relatives.

Traffic and party noise around the clock

Traffic and human voices are noisy around the clock from Mehringdamm and the backyard. There is often a party at night. How should the children be able to sleep, study or concentrate? Sivoun and Noura, nine and eleven years old, who with their siblings and parents were just able to flee from the falling bombs from their Syrian village on the border with Turkey, enjoy the neighborhood and the nearby Lenau school. They made friends in their classes, they “arrived” with their lively and intelligent manner. They have been living on Mehringdamm for three years now. Her father has found a job as a caretaker in a hotel. Now all that's missing is an apartment with its own kitchen. But preferably here “near Kreuzberg”.

Dilan's family finally made it. You now have your own apartment, but in Hanover. You have already moved. Mr. Arkan's father has also expanded his search for an apartment. He could have rented a house in the country for 1080 euros. But the immigration office has not yet given its approval. And the children would much rather stay in Berlin.

* Name changed