On Januar 31st, 2015, up to 8000 people marched in solidarity with refugees and for equal rights for everybody living in Hamburg. In preparation for the municipal elections in February 2015, the alliance "Recht auf Stadt - Never mind the papers" ("Right to the City – Never mind the papers") was founded in November 2014. The goal of this alliance is to address refugees' right, foremost the right to stay in Hamburg and to get decent medical aid, but also the right to take up jobs. The alliance puts this into a broader picture: Not only refugees are deprived of their right to the city. More and more people are pushed to the outer skirts of Hamburg, because they can no longer afford the rents.
The context of the demonstration is the struggle of the group "Lampedusa in Hamburg", a group of about 300 refugees from African who have been working in Libya until the war. The refugees came via Lampedusa (Italy) to Hamburg. So far, the social-democractic city government of Hamburg ignores the rights and demands of these refugees. The future of the Lampedusa group is still uncertain. Hamburg's city government wants to force the refugees to file individual applications for asylum. Those who complied had their Italian papers taken away and are threatened by deportation. Some have already been deported. Therefore the majority of the Lampedusa group insists on a collective solution. Since they do not get any support from the city and are not allowed to work, these refugees depend on the solidarity of the people of Hamburg. According to the group "Solidarisches Wohnen" ("Living in Solidarty"), about 130 of these refugees found shelter in housing projects throughout the city.
The "Recht auf Stadt - Never mind the papers" alliance brings together refugee struggles - both from the Lampedusa group and other refugees - and the social struggles for affordable housing. Access to public goods should not depend on legal status and identity documents. The alliance also fights against deportation of refugees back to their "home countries". "Recht auf Stadt - Never mind the papers" is a broad alliance of heterogeneous groups, including anti-racist initiatives, labour union youth, student unions, right-to-the-city initiatives to radical leftist groups.
As its first public activity, the alliance staged a protest at a party convention of SPD, Hamburg's ruling Social-Democratic party. In the following weeks, more protests took place. For example, the issue of decent housing for refugees and homeless people was addressed with a satirical action in front of the office of the municipal housing company SAGA / GWG. (SAGA does not provide enough housing for refugees, therefore they have to stay in refugee camps for prolonged times.)
"Recht auf Stadt - Never mind the papers" also participated in a "Refugees Welcome" demonstration in the nearby city Lübeck on January 17th. It organized a solidarity party and worked together with many other groups in order to organize the demonstration on January, 31st. Ultimately, 94 groups, initiatives and organizations participated in the demonstration.
The demonstration itself vastly exceeded the expected number of participants. Despite a massive police presence, 8000 people marched from Hamburg Harbour through the inner city to the mayor's office. The demonstration was accompanied by three trucks, broadcasting speechs and music to the bystanders. The union youth had its own "Working Class never mind the Papers" block. There was also a youth block and a children's block. Banners were unrolled at houses along the route, fireworks were lit and confetti was thrown. A "rolling voting booth", organized by political artist collective "Schwabinggrad-Ballett" allowed immigrants - who are normally not entitled to vote - to participate in the local elections by filling out ballot papers donated by supporters with German citizenship.
Two weeks before the local elections in Hamburg, the demonstration made clear that the future rulers of Hamburg will meet massive protests if they do not correct the city's stance against refugees! The demands of the Lampedusa group will not go away. A few days ago, the Lampedusa group wrote an open letter to the Green Party. In their election manifesto, the Green Party speaks out for support of the Lampedusa group. It remains to be seen if the Greens will remember their promise after the election, when they are the most likely candidate for a coalition with the Social Democrats. Whether they stick to their words will also depend on the pressure we develop in the streets.
Therefore it is all the more important to keep up the pressure on the political parties. Migrant struggles for self-organization need our support by active solidarity and anti-racist action. This is even more true considering the nationwide surge of of right-wing populism (AfD, Pegida).
The next activity of the campaign will be a demonstration at the refugee detention camp at Schnackenburgallee on Sunday, February 8th, at 2pm.