Berlin: Refugee Movement Centre Evicted

Gerhart-Hauptmann Schule, a school building in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district squatted in 2012 by a group of refugees and activists,  was evicted today.

The vacant school was  first occupied during a particularly harsh Winter in December 2012 in order to house homeless refugees camping at Berlin’s streets.  Initially, the occupation was tolerated by the district office Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and it housed hundreds of people. In 2014, 211 refugees were registered as residents of the school. In the months since the announcement that the building is scheduled for eviction, this number decreased.

Apart for providing housing for refugees, the school was a home for various activist groups, primarily those working with migrants, but also those campaigning against gentrification.

The first attempted eviction of Gerhart-Hauptmann took place in July 2014, when Kreuzberg’s ruling Green Party decided to empty the building. That lead to an 8-day stand-off between the residents, activists and approx 1700 cops,  during which 40 refugees had barricaded themselves on the roof, threatening to kill themselves if they were forced to leave. The siege ended when the local government agreed to let those inside remain in the school, and have the building refurbished into an International Refugee Centre, with counseling services, a café, and a cultural and political venue. The activists claim that agreement was “sabotaged and never taken seriously” by the local government.

In order to prevent such stand-off from happening again, the police prepared for todays eviction the evening before. On Wednesday,  the barriers in the vicinity of the former school building were installed, in order to prevent refugees and activists from obstructing scheduled eviction. Despite of heavy police presence, about two hundred people attended a 7:45am demo in solidarity with the residents and against the eviction, but, contrary to 2014, the cops and bailiffs did not meet significant resistance. The last remaining 11 residents have left their home prior to the eviction.

In the statement issued in solidarity with the (ex) residents of  Gerhart-Hauptmann, the activists say:

The refugee movement has shown that refugees fight for the status of political subjects. Their demands for visibility and equal rights – denied to them by the white-German majority society – have encouraged and politicized groups, initiatives and individuals. Courage, solidarity, and shared political struggle are more necessary than ever in the face of constant tightening of asylum laws, the deterritorialization of Europe’s borders, racist and capitalist exploitation, and the European shift to the right. All people must have the right to decide where and how they want to live, irrespective of their status and origin.

When the police came to forcibly drag the squatters out of their home, it is the culmination of the long-standing struggle of the inhabitants and supporters against the state sponsored policy of the Green Kreuzberg politicians. Contrary to the once agreed upon right of residence, the squatters were harassed as the state tried to regain control: security personnel restricted freedom of movement and judicially enforced eviction was sought. After more than three years, the Greens now have the eviction title they always wanted. We won’t accept this without making noise. The refugee movement has shown us what a productive relationship between the struggles of those directly affected and supporters can look like.


Photo: Resistencia Twitter account