Daniel Tietze - Secretary of State for Integration Berlin Senate
“People supporting refugees in Berlin are repeatedly forced to deal with topics such as the relocation or reunification of family members still staying in Greece or Turkey with their families. The complexity of the matter is costing energy and voluntary resources. We consider it as helpful to give the people living in Berlin the chance to inform themselves directly about the situation on site, ask questions, be heard and receive bundled knowledge in order to be empowered in their voluntary work as well here, in Germany. Especially within times where the European ideal is questioned by many, I consider it as important to enter into dialogue with countries on the European borders with a democratic minded civil society. A conference such as the one planned is highly suitable to do so. I support the intentions and I wish the organisers every success."
Dr Bärbel Kofler - Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office and Member of the German Bundestag
© SPD Parteivorstand/ Susie Knoll/ Florian Jaenicke
"An active and strong civil society is the prerequisite for a constructive relationship between a state and its society. In many cases, non-governmental organisations raise awareness of deficits and injustice, giving marginalized groups a voice and taking up their concerns. By doing so, they play an important role in the long-term stability of a society. To this end, it is essential that civil society can discuss and exchange ideas – both at national and international level – in order to be able to develop common positions and joint strategies.
Germany supports the engagement of civil society and human rights defenders, and is committed to creating and maintaining scope for their work. Civil society and human rights go hand in hand: civil society’s endeavors play a significant role in the protection and promotion of human rights. Conversely, only when human rights are widely guaranteed, can civil society unfold its full potential."
Ska Keller - President and migration policy spokesperson for the Greens/ EFA group in the European Parliament
From the start of the high influx of refugees, NGOs, private initiatives and volunteers have played an essential and applaudable role in the protection of refugees. By providing basic humanitarian care for refugees they have alleviated the worst effects of the humanitarian crisis European leaders fail to address, often with little or no help from public authorities. They continue to rescue refugees from drowning, despite an insane smear campaign denouncing them as henchmen of ruthless smugglers and traffickers.
Their tireless efforts to help refugees are a shining example for the solidarity with people in need of protection which so many governments are lacking. While political leaders in Europe are unable to live up to their commitment to relocate 160.000 refugees from Greece and Italy and forge instead ahead with sealing off Europe against migrants and refugees, NGOs have established a true culture of solidarity with refugees. We need your commitment to solidarity both on the ground and in society.
This conference is a great opportunity to get in touch with each other, to strengthen your collaboration and to jointly position yourself as an independent political force
for solidarity with refugees.
I hope to see many fruitful initiatives coming out of this conference!
Inga Börjesson Director – Bildungswerk Berlin der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung e. V.
In the last few months, the focus of public attention has been on the dramas and scandals around the refugee routes in the central Mediterranean. The partly intolerable situation of the refugees in Greece and Turkey has (almost) fallen out of the line of sight. In Turkey, there are about 3 million refugees, the overwhelming majority without having access to elementary rights, such as the right to housing, education or basic health care. In Greece, too, there is rarely a minimum of infrastructure for the people seeking protection. Private initiatives, volunteers and NGOs have been engaged in both countries for years to support the refugees in humanitarian, legal and political terms.
The German government policy is largely responsible for the fact that so many of the refugees in these two countries are stuck, families are torn apart, and the possibility of exercising the right to asylum hardly exists. Instead of defending human rights and the right to asylum, the government follows the policies of other EU countries by extending the fortress Europe.
But also in Germany, there are many support groups for refugees and many refugees have organized themselves to fight for their rights. As in Greece and Turkey,
this work is a sign of humanity and solidarity.
This conference provides the opportunity to share experiences and work out common approaches to solutions and political demands for a human rights oriented refugee policy.I’m looking forward to it !
I would like to end my greeting with a quote from Heinrich Böll, whose 100th birthday we are celebrating this year. "Will one have the courage when it becomes really cold to make firewood out of the furniture and when the every day is no longer self-evident to involve the refugees? "*
I suppose most of the conference participants have answered this question positively with their practice.
* From: Poetry of the Everyday, 1964
(Source: Heinrich Böll: Works, Cologne edition, vol. 14, pp. 131 f.)
Wenke Christoph Senior Advisor Europe, Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation
“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” This line, by British Somali poet Warsan Shire, has become a powerful symbol of the thousands of people on the move fleeing war, persecution or desperate poverty. More than two years ago borders were opened for refugees in Europe, providing hope and support for a couple of months. This “long summer of migration” lasted until the closing of the Balkan route corridor and the EU-Turkey deal in March 2016. However, people are still desperately trying to cross the Mediterranean – and many die doing so. Thousands of people remain stuck in Turkish and Greek refugee camps, often without access to basic social rights. The EU and German government promised relocation and resettlement schemes and instead spend their funds on further militarizing and externalizing the EU borders.
But what remains as well are the numerous groups and individuals that are organizing and providing support for refugees and migrants – be it on Europe’s borders in Turkey or Greece, along the migration routes or here in Germany. Activists, volunteers and support groups have been crucial not only in providing humanitarian help, but also powerful in their broad support for humanitarian and solidary migration and refugee policies. In these times, when racist and anti-refugee rhetoric is on the rise again in many European countries, it is of utmost importance to organize, to learn from each other, to cooperate across borders.
Therefore, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung is very proud to support this conference. I hope that you will find the opportunity to build new initiatives and collaborations and to further develop practices and political demands for solidarity with people on the move. I wish you a successful conference!
Trude Jacobsen - CEO, Drop in the Ocean
“We would like to state that we support the initiative of the ConAction Conference to improve the humanitarian situation for refugees at the European border. As a small NGO operating in Greece, we face a number of challenges. The situation is unpredictable both when it comes to operation of camps, numbers of residents and of course new arrivals. A Drop in the Ocean would be honoured to contribute at the conference and/or act as workshop facilitators. Initiatives like this are highly important in terms of raising public awareness and creating a space where actors working on the ground can meet and plan for further collaboration. Small NGOs must strengthen their collaboration in order to increase their ability to help those in need. We hope that the organisers will get all the support needed to make this conference a success. A Drop in the Ocean is looking forward to seeing you all in Berlin.”
Friederike Kempter , actress