The O-Dilemma: A possible scenario

Thanks to @monberl and @IrishBerliner for translating the german text!

  • What’s happened so far since Tuesday
  • What happenend earlier
  • A possible scenario
  • How can you support?

All information is subject to change.

What’s happened so far since Tuesday

  1. Tuesday, June 24, 2014:
  2. Wednesday, June 25, 2014
  3. Thursday, June 26, 2014
  4. Friday, June 27, 2014
  5. Saturday, June 28, 2014

What happened earlier

The Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, with district mayor Franz Schulz (Bündnis ’90/GRÜNE) in charge at the time, is confronted with the occupation of Oranienplatz in October 2012 and of the Gerhart-Hauptmann school in November 2012 for friendlier German and European asylum right laws. In the summer of 2013 there are growing complaints from inhabitants and sanitary conditions are not ideal. Senator for Interior Affairs Henkel puts pressure on the district to find a solution. On August 1, Monika Herrmann takes over as district mayor. In the autumn, alternative accommodation is offered and partially accepted. More refugees arrive to Oranienplatz and shacks are arranged as temporary shelter. An attempted eviction ordered by Senator Henkel in the middle of December fails. In the spring of 2014, Dilek Kolat (SPD, Senator for Employment, Integration and Women) tries to come to a mutual agreement. An agreement [cannot find it at the moment on the internet] is struck with refugees to leave Oranienplatz and the Gerhart-Hauptmann school voluntarily and move into alternative accommodation. Wowereit and Kolat celebrate the mediation of the SPD as a success. Some of the Oranienplatz occupiers do not accept the agreement, however, and move into the school. The final eviction of Oranienplatz takes place with police intervention after Henkel’s decision in April 2014. A fatal incident tragically occurs in the school, escalating from an argument over the only shower available. The CDU party – Member of Parliament Kurt Wansner (for Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg) in particular – regularly raise the issue of “unsustainable conditions” in the school. At the beginning of June, reports suggest that the Senate “is breaking its word” and the threat of deportation looms over one of the former Oranienplatz occupiers. Meanwhile there is increasing pressure on the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district administration to find a solution to “the problem”. Senator for Healthcare Mario Czaja (CDU) can make accommodation available to 200 asylum seekers as soon as Tuesday, June 24. For further developments, see above…

A possible scenario

Nothing is going to happen on Sunday, as negotiations are still planned. Hans-Christian Ströbele has been involved since Saturday in talks between the district and the refugees (through their legal representatives). The full extent of the Senate’s administration for interior affairs’ involvement is not clear. If an escalation should occur during negotiations, there would definitely be some attention at federal government level.
 The district will be stripped of all responsibility for managing the situation, and Berlin police and Senator Henkel will be in charge.

On Monday at 9am a meeting of the supervisory board for the Berlin-Brandenburg airport will take place. Wowereit, as chairman of the board, will be present. Whether Henkel will also be present is not certain, since at 10am he is holding a meeting of the “Committee for interior affairs, security and public order” and sitting in Parliament. On the agenda as a result of a motion from the Pirate Party: “De facto eviction of the Gerhard-Hauptmann school: how could it ever happen?” Guests are allowed in public meetings of the committee. The only requirement is to show your passport. This way, the supporters of the refugees can follow the meeting from 10am in Room 311 of Berlin Parliament, Niederkirchnerstr. 6. It’s important to avoid displaying any political messages there (t-shirts with slogans, flyers, flags, banners, etc.) and to keep quiet – as far as possible – during the meeting. Before/after and in theory during the meeting, talks with members of parliament could be carried out. The following committee members are directly familiar with the situation on site: Hakan Taş (Die Linke, stellv. Vorsitzender), Canan Bayram (Bündnis 90/GRÜNE) and Oliver Höfinghoff (Piratenpartei). All members of the committee are listed here. With their presence, activists can show that they engage seriously with the political work of members of parliament and express their opinion and concerns (in)directly. If before or shortly after the meeting Henkel were to allow an eviction, he would be seen by the public as boogeyman, something he, as designated top candidate for the office of city mayor, can do without.
 In late afternoon, a demonstration could start from Heinrich-Heine-Platz in the direction of the corner of Ohlauer and Reichenberger, so that police officers on site do not get too bored. The demonstrations from last Wednesday and Saturday already proved that the refugee supporters can organise protests without any major incidents.

On Tuesday at 10am a Senate meeting with Wowereit and all Senators is taking place. It has already become evident that there is a conflict of interests between Senator for Interior Affairs Henkel and Senator for Integration Kolat. After the controversy between Senator for Finance Nußbaum (independent for SPD) and Senator for Justice Heilmann (CDU), the city government cannot afford further internal disagreement. Due to a complex stalemate situation the Senate cannot take a decision, unless Mayor Klaus Wowereit (SPD) exercises his authority with a decree. This, however, would likely be in favour of the refugees. Wowereit urging his deputy mayor Henkel to enforce § 23 AufenthG [Section 23 of German residence act, see above] would probably go too far. However, in that case Wowereit would come out as political winner. Currently the loser is the green-led Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, which would actually suit the Senate just fine. At the same time as the Senate meeting, a school strike is planned in front of the Red Town Hall. If the Senate were to opt for a hard-line approach, hundreds if not thousands of students in the city are likely to react with some unrest.

Reportedly, police deployment is still planned until Tuesday, and could be terminated in the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, once the situation has calmed down. The remaining refugees could be further tolerated and, with the district and Parliament-granted subsidies, could carry out their plan to establish an intercultural center. The CDU would also be essentially satisfied with that as “inhuman sanitary conditions” would be avoided due to a smaller number of occupants. Thanks to the growing interest from the public, more help is also being offered: for instance, the organisation “Alivitische Gemeinde” has sponsored an outdoor shower.

Still looming over the whole development is the shadow of the election battle for 2016, which already started over this weekend (assuming no new elections in Berlin are called for earlier than 2016). The Green party have gone so far with their eviction attempt that they could only realistically approach the CDU party as a coalition option. On the other hand, the CDU – specifically Henkel – is not going to order a violent eviction that could result in a refugee’s suicide, or they would be a very unlikely coalition partner for the Green party. What the SPD decided on the matter during their regional board assembly on Saturday should become public on Sunday through Jan Stöß.

Should it come to an escalation, the opposition would tear apart the government on Thursday during question time in the plenary assembly in Parliament, and even leaving that aside, the government would be weakened as the Greens probably don’t know yet how they should proceed on the issue.

A peaceful solution without the Senate losing face is in any case possible. Questions about the exorbitant police deployment will only be discussed after the political summer break. It’s likely the issue will be raised at national level. At both national and European level a new and updated policy on asylum seekers is needed, but Berlin is not responsible for that …

How can you support?

  • Show continuous presence in blockade area at corner of Reichenberger/Lausitzer/Wiener/Ohlauer Straße
  • Sign the online petition to Senator Henkel …
  • Attend the internal board meeting on Monday, June 30, at 10:00 in room 311 in Parliament, Niederkirchnerstr. 6

  • Spread the word and join the demonstration on Monday late afternoon
  • Keep calm.