About 100 protesters gathered in Gotha, state of Thuringia, on Saturday to protest against deportations to Nigeria and what they described as “the intimidation of the authorities and police”. Participants from Berlin, Erfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Göttingen, Jena and Wuppertal converged on the eastern German town in response to the call of refugees stationed in Gotha.
Organised by pro-refugee groups, the action was the start of a campaign against the German government’s plan to deport 30,000 Nigerians, whose asylum requests have been rejected, to their home country. ‘RefugeeBlackBoxes’ were set up in front of the train station in the town to make the demands of the refugees visible to passers-by and the numerous police officers observing the rally. Osaren Igbinoba of THE VOICE Refugee Forum described the ‘RefugeeBlackBoxes’ as a medium of refugees’ public expression of their experiences.
Speakers condemned deportations as a human rights violation. Refugees from Nigeria gave the reasons for fleeing their homeland and why they were seeking a life of security and dignity for themselves and their families in Germany. They criticised the collaboration of the German government with dictatorial regimes in Africa for the purpose of deporting them after surviving their dangerous journey across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea.
Representatives of the refugees narrated their ordeal of having to live in perpetual fear of being deported as a result of the night operations of the police. A refugee talked about one of such operations during which another refugee jumped out of the window out of fear and was seriously injured.
The activists called on the refugee community, and especially the Nigerian community, to organize and become active against the deportations. They made a clear connection between the economic and military interventions of Germany and other European states in African and Asian countries and the migratory movements. “It’s not enough to speak of humanity here,” one of the speakers said, “while weapons and death continue to be exported to the world and the African continent is being exploited.”
The activists also spoke against the conditions in the refugee hostels in and around Gotha, which they described as isolation camps.