Open letter by Lampedusa refugees

This is the original statement:

English translation:

The Lampedusa Refugees have made their position clear with a very diplomatic letter to the Nordkirche (Northern Church). An important step as the rumour mill has been in full swing recently.

We document the letter here because we support the refugees‘ demands fully and consider the arguments‘ logic completely accurate and reasonable.

Open letter to the Nordkirche and the Christian communities – The Group of Libyan War Refugees in Hamburg


We thank you very much for the great support from the Christian communities in Hamburg. Especially the shelter and food in St Pauli but also in many other districts. Especially we thank the African community of the Erlöserkirche Borgfelde, who have been providing hot food for us twice weekly and who always let us use their church for assemblies.

We regard highly how you all have been helping us to survive for months and how many of you protest with us for our right to stay.

We were able to suggest in our open letter to the senate that it would be possible for us to forgo benefit support if we are awarded $23 – group recognition. Many of us would be working by now, many have been learning the language for months, the young ones among us could be doing apprenticeships. Together with those people at our sides, we could support those for whom it may be difficult to find work. The wide and lasting solidarity of the last months has shown that this is possible.

But it is about all of us, it is about group recognition. We all have the same traumatic history in the same time which has led from Libya to Lampedusa and Italy. This was already recognised there. We are Europe’s recognised refugees and need the right to live and work. Both we and our families have been in great need for almost three years now. We fight for our right to rebuild our lives.

That what our group of Libyan war refugees „Lampedusa in Hamburg“ stands for.

We have been saying this throughout. We have also been saying that any help, support and advice is welcome. But we also have had to make clear again and again that we decide our own destiny and our own future, that we are victims of injustice and fighters for justice.

More and more people in this city and beyond demand with us the right to stay and work for all. The political leaders of this city do not want a solution to our problem.

The senate used stop and search procedure against black people and kept members of our group for hours in police custody and forded the taking of finger prints. At the same time we received through the office of the bishop the senate’s suggestions with the announcement that the searches would be stopped should we accept the terms.

The senate’s suggestions mean further months and years of uncertainty. We are told to start individual cases for our right to stay. The in Italy recognised status of refugee is to be exchanged for exceptional leave to remain. The senate still stresses that the reasons for our stay would not be recognised and that we then would be able to sue in court. Until the end of this process we would not be deported. And afterwards? We do not regard this as a constructive solution but a play for time so we can be dealt with separately later. A fair and reasonable solutions would look different.

We still want to have a direct conversation with the senate about these issues. We have presented this in our open letter to the senate dated 28.10.13 and the press conference the following day.

At the same time the leadership of the Nordkiche accepted the suggestion of the senate and took it to the public without our agreement

The protestant press service published the incorrect informatin that 80 of us in the St Pauli church would be applying for exceptional leave to remain. This has caused a lot of confusion and mistrust.

Previoulsy the church stressed that it provides mainly humanitarian aid, it now says the bishop of the Nordkirche and the Senator for the Interior Hamburgs have discussed a solution which would be fair for all.

We disagree with this completely and even other representatives of the Nordkirche have said to us repeatedly that the suggested procedure would only benefit a few of us.

The Nordkirche may have its reasons – we have often heard that the pressure of the senate on the bishop is too much, the pressure on the priests of the St Pauli church is too much. But it would then be fair and decent to say as much instead of persuading some of the group to follow the arguable suggestion and thus to betray the group. The former speaker for the sleep group of the St Pauli church told us afterwards he accepted the offer because the pressure on the church was too much. Some others applied for exeptional leave to remain because they were told that there were no alternatives.

The absolute majority of us refuses to go this way because of its insecurity and because of the same negative position of the senate. We are disappointed and annoyed about the declaration of the bishop’s office that they have agreed a acceptable solution.

We are told to follow this solution but were not included in the negotiations. We have not instructed anyone to negotiate in our name. We have always demanded direct conversation. Why can this, the most normal and natural request, not respected? Why does the church leaderhip decide at a time of great solidarity with us for cooperation with the senate against our interests? Why can’t it be accepted that we decide our own lives? Why isn’t it possible for the church leadership to regard us as equal subjects?

Why doesn’t the Nordkirche support a group solution? Why should the solidarity which originates from our common traumatic history be broken? We have all suffered the same and we all need the same. How can we find differences between us?

We hope you can understand us – try to walk in our shoes and ask yourselves how you would behave. We are grateful to everyone who supports us earnestly and accepts that we decide on our own future.

We wish you all a nice and happy pre-Christmas time.