Refugees with Attitudes

O. – Burkina Faso

“I come from a village in Burkina Faso. I never went to school, but always helped my father in agriculture since I was a child.

In view of the lack of job prospects, I left there in 2011. I came to Germany via Greece and the Balkans in 2012, hoping to find work there. I didn’t know anyone there. I then came to Saxony-Anhalt, where I applied for asylum and lived in a home. In the first few years, I at least got money there; from 2016, I only got vouchers. When I applied for asylum, I had no support whatsoever. It was rejected and I was only ever given temporary tolerations. My applications for work permits were also rejected. I was told that I should bring papers (passport). Then I would also get a work permit. I found the situation in the home hard to bear: no contact with the German population, no possibility to learn German; nothing to do or sleep all day. That’s why I decided back in 2013 to live mostly with an acquaintance in Berlin. Because here in Berlin, every now and then I have the opportunity to find short-term jobs through African acquaintances and thus earn a little money to be able to buy something to eat.

Since 2018, I no longer have a toleration permit, so I live without papers. When the ‘Corona time’ started, I had heard from other refugees that there were chances of getting a stay because of Corona. So I made a new application for asylum at the Berlin Foreigners’ Registration Office.

But since I was last registered in Saxony-Anhalt, they referred me to the foreigners authority in Magdeburg. Now I am waiting for an appointment for the hearing.

So far I have had no contact with counselling centres or refugee councils. I have not met any Germans in all these years.”

The contact with us is the first time he has spoken to Germans for a longer period of time.

He has not had any contact with politically active people. The ‘Indivisible’ demo was the first time he had taken part in a demo.

S. – Burkina Faso

“I come from a village in Burkina Faso. I attended primary school there for 5 years.

Because I couldn’t find work in Burkina Faso, I went to Gabon. There I worked for 15 years in a French textile company as a tailor/fashion designer.

In 2016, there was political unrest there. In this context, the factory was set on fire.

(The factory worked mainly with state contracts). Fearing for his life, the French owner fled to the USA. I too feared for my life. Returning to Burkina Faso was out of the question for me. My home country had become a stranger to me and I saw no prospects there. The owner of the company gave me money for the flight to France, where I entered on a tourist visa. I didn’t know anyone there. My attempts to find work there failed. So I decided to go to Germany in 2017.

In Saxony-Anhalt, I applied for asylum. It was rejected. As I had no knowledge of counselling centres, I did not get any support. Since then, I have been living with a toleration permit, which I have to have renewed every 3 months. Twice I applied for a work permit.

The second time I even found a tailor in Berlin who wanted to employ me.

The applications were rejected. Since the situation in the home is terrible, I have been living mostly in Berlin with a friend for some time. I get money according to the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act. From time to time I earn some extra money by doing small sewing jobs for friends.

In view of the difficult situation in Germany, I went to France again last year and applied for asylum there. After the authorities there realised that I was already registered in Germany, I was deported back there.

Since March, I have been attending an A 2 language course in Berlin. I don’t know what to do next.”

Y. – Burkina Faso

“I am from a village in the southwest of Burkina Faso. I had a big fight with the local authorities there. I could no longer live well there. In 2012, I fled to Germany via Niger, Libya, Greece and the Balkans. I had heard from other refugees that I would find work there.

I applied for asylum in 2012. My application was soon rejected. I then lived for several years in a shelter for asylum seekers in Saxony-Anhalt. I only had language classes there for one month. I only ever had a ‘Duldung’, which I had to extend every six months. My applications for a work permit were rejected.

Through acquaintances I had heard about the possibility of getting papers in Italy. That only cost money, but didn’t help.

While I had received money in the beginning, later I received less money and vouchers. Then I was told to work for 80 cents an hour. I thought that was too little and refused. Finally, my toleration was not extended because I did nothing to get papers. Three years ago I left the asylum centre and moved to Hamburg. Since then I have been living there without papers. Every now and then I find jobs to earn my living. I live with an acquaintance. I have few contacts there – neither with Germans nor with other refugees. But I don’t miss that either, because I’m a rather quiet, reserved person. I’m not afraid of police checks, because I haven’t done anything wrong. When I was checked once, I showed my ‘toleration’. Although it had expired, they let me go.

I got used to living without papers, but of course it would be better if I could live here legally. That’s why I think it’s good that you’re doing such an initiative.”

Ahmed – Iraq

Ahmed comes from Iraq, he came to Germany in 1998, to Möhlau in Saxony-Anhalt. In 2002, he received a negative decision on his asylum application. In 2005 he was granted toleration.

Under pressure from the Aliens’ Registration Office, he decided to apply to the European Commission for his Iraqi passport. The passport was sent by Ahmed’s family via DHL, but never arrived with him.
Ahmed suspects that the shipment was intercepted by the police and handed over to the Aliens Department, but the Aliens Department denies this and is holding him in the home in Vockerode, Saxony-Anhalt. Ahmed has now been trying to return to his home country for more than 10 years.

Numerous asylum seekers have handed in their passports to the foreigners authority. The authorities often claim that these asylum seekers have not yet been identified and that their identification is still in progress

Yousouf – Togo

Yousouf is originally from Togo. He came to Germany in 2001 and was sent to Rostock in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern after applying for asylum. Four years later, like many other asylum seekers, he received a negative decision.

During these 4 years he had tried to get a work permit. He was not allowed to go to school and learn the German language or to leave the asylum camp where he was held. In 2005, he was granted a toleration. The pressure from the foreigners authority was very hard on him and after some time he became seriously ill. In 2017, when he had already almost finished with life, he finally received his residence permit.

Yousouf came to Berlin with a friend in November 2018 to renew his passport and had since disappeared. Three weeks later we found him in a Berlin hospital, he was in a coma. From there he was then transferred to a hospital in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Yousouf stayed in this hospital where he lost not only his appetite but also his ability to speak. He never left the hospital and died there on 01 October 2021.

Justin – Cameroon

Justin is from Cameroon and came to Germany in 2006. He applied for asylum and was transferred to Brandenburg.

“I waited every day for the answer to my asylum application. We were not allowed to stay outside the camp and once I came back to the home, I heard my friends talking about the conditions they were living in and I thought to myself at the time that maybe it was their fault and that they just didn’t want to work. Two years later I realised I was wrong. In 2009 I finally got the answer to my application and it was negative. During those 3 years I thought a lot; should I go back to my country or stay? I had to make a decision that I will regret for the rest of my life. Before I left Cameroon, I took money from my family and friends for the visa and ticket, which I have not yet paid back.”

– What happened?

“In 2013, I wanted to extend my stay but it was revoked and I was given a toleration. With the little money I had saved, I tried to get a lawyer. I have finally been out of the home for 2 years now, I am in Berlin. I only have problems when I’m sick, but I’m sick very often.”

– How do you feel now?

“I feel lonely because I have no one in my life. I haven’t heard from my parents or relatives for more than 8 years. I feel so empty that I often just cry. I don’t know if my parents and relatives know that I am still alive.”


Armine came to Germany in 2003 and applied for asylum the day after he arrived in Horst, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. He was then taken to Ludwigslust in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

“In Ludwigslust I applied for a work permit for 1 year, which I only got in 2006, the year I also received the rejection of my asylum application.

I looked for a lawyer in Schwerin, to whom I paid 50 euros per month, because I was told that he could make sure I got my work permit and could then go to work. I paid the lawyer until 2009 without getting the work permit or residence. I only had the toleration they gave me. The lawyer had to go to the social welfare office to apply for a work permit and he did. But every time I found a job, they told me it was a German job. The pressure from the Foreigners’ Registration Office made me lose sleep.

I became very ill and at some point I had no more strength to continue. I have been living without papers since 2016.”


Jeff came to Germany in 1998. He applied for asylum in Halberstadt and was taken to a home in Saxony-Anhalt.

In his first years in Germany, he had a German girlfriend and also spent Christmas at his girlfriend’s house.
However, he suffered from chronic stomach pains and was taken to hospital after collapsing. After a few days in hospital, he went back to the home. Shortly after, he noticed that his girlfriend stopped coming to visit him.

One day he asked one of his friends why his girlfriend did not come. He told him that a social worker had called his girlfriend and the home and told them that Jeff had AIDS. Apparently, the girlfriend had stopped visiting him because of this. The stunned Jeff called the hospital to inquire. There he was assured that he did not have AIDS. Jeff suspects that the woman from the social welfare office claimed this to keep his girlfriend away from him.
One of his friends, who comes from the same village as him, visited this village and also told Jeff’s family this untruth.

Since 1998, i.e. for 24 years, Jeff has been living in Germany with a toleration. Jeff has been politically active in various groups for many years and fights for the rights of refugees.

Refugees are often in need of grace of those who are supposed to help them.

Alex – Tibet

Alex was Tibetan. Along with Danny, he was one of my best friends in the asylum Siedlung 2, Crivitz, or the ‘Crivitz Dschungel Heim Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’ (as the press called it in those days). One day, during a conversation, Alex let me know that he had two children. The eldest was 2 years and 3 months old when he left them. He had now been here for 16 years and his eldest child was now turning 18.

“I left them to come here and work and support them.”

Crivitz was closed and we came to Parchim. In 2006, I also left Parchim and left the friends there. In 2011 I got a call from Parchim and they told me that Alex was dead.
I went to Parchim to meet the head of the home and tell him that Alex had two children and they should be notified. The head of the home tells me it’s none of my business. After 2 months of online research, I finally reached the eldest son.

“Are you Alex’s son?” I asked him. “Yes, he is my father and he told us that he will come soon.” “Your father is dead,” I replied. – “No, no, get my father on the phone for me,” he said.

Alex died after more than 25 years here in Germany without ever seeing his children again. 

Danny – Mauretanien

Danny is Mauritanian with Ivorian parents and came to Germany in 2000.

When I met him, he spoke fluent French, English, Spanish, Italian and Russian in addition to his mother tongue. Between 2000 and 2003, he stayed with me at the Crivitz home. He rarely stayed there and often went to Hamburg. In 2004, he was arrested for violating the residency requirement and went to prison for 3 months. When Danny was released and they took him back to the home, Danny went crazy.

In 2009 he was granted residency on humanitarian grounds.

I looked for his parents to inform them, but unfortunately could not find them. Danny now lives in Schwerin in a flat and has a carer as he cannot look after himself. When I visited him in the winter of 2019, the heating in his flat was broken and there was only one lamp whose bulb still worked. I offered to ask the caregiver to get in touch with him. He did not receive a call, however, the installations in his flat were repaired two weeks later.
He has not been in Schwerin for six months and we have no information about where he is now.

There are many refugees here who no longer have any contact with their families or friends.

Koffi – Togo

Koffi comes from Togo, he came to Germany in 2004 and applied for asylum in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. After two months he was transferred to a home in Mecklenburg. In 2009 he receives his rejection. He appeals, but nothing happens. He then gets his toleration extended every month. In 2011 he goes to the foreigners authority.

“I asked them if I have a chance to stay here and work. ‘We don’t know yet,’ they told me at the Foreigners’ Registration Office.
After a while I went there again and told them that I wanted to go back home but not arrive directly in my country. I wanted to land in a neighbouring country, cross the border and go home. They said they would understand. I went to extend my stay and this time they gave me a residence permit for 6 months. I asked them why they were giving me 6 months. ‘We are working on it,’ they answered me.

After those 6 months, I went back to renew my stay. They gave me a work permit and told me to start looking for work. I thought things would get better now.
I found a job and worked for 3 years. It was the end of the month, I had one day off and nothing to eat at home. In the morning I was about to go to the bank to get money and go shopping when my doorbell rang. I opened the door and there were five policemen standing there telling me to get my things because I was now being deported…. I felt dizzy.
I went to get my shoes from the balcony. I don’t know how I landed on the floor from the fifth floor. I only realised when I woke up from the coma.” 

Abdoulaye – Senegal

Abdoulaye left Senegal in 1999. He applied for asylum in Eisenhüttenstadt the same year and was taken to a home in Brandenburg.

“I was in the tenth grade when I left school. My girlfriend had become pregnant and her parents were furious. I left her behind to take care of us in Europe.

When I arrived here, I found out that I had to apply for asylum, which I did in Eisenhüttenstadt. One and a half months later, I was transferred to an asylum camp far outside the city.
At first I still managed to send my girlfriend 50 to 100 marks, even though I was starving myself. After a while I learned that in order to work I needed a work permit from the Foreigners’ Registration Office.
I tried to get that, but each time I was told to look for a job and then come back for the permit. When I found a job and wanted to get the permit, I was told that I was not entitled to that kind of work. So I stayed in the camp. Not because I liked it, but because of the residency requirement.

After 6 years, I got a refusal for the first time in 2005. That was the moment my life changed. Some time later I broke off contact with my girlfriend and I don’t know what happened to her.
Since then I have been living with toleration.”