By Thomas Peter
“It feels good to walk in nature after so many months of boredom in the Immigration Holding Centre,” said Sallisou as we walked along a poplar-lined alley in the sleepy hinterland of Potsdam-Mittelmark, a rural county just outside the German capital of Berlin. Two weeks earlier, the smiling man from Niger had joined a 600 km (372 miles) foot march of refugees. With every county border they crossed, they were breaking a state order that restricts their movement to a territory around their camp. At present, Sallisou was eagerly filming the procession of refugees with a small video camera.
“Since I have been on this march, my days have a purpose again. There is so much to organize and we do it ourselves. We work as a team. Being on the move feels like I have a home again,” Salissou said.
For these people whose stories of displacement and rejection are as varied as the places they come from, ‘home’ means self-determination, the feeling of being needed and the knowledge that they are heading for some sort of reachable goal, all of which they have not had since they fled their countries.
The destination of the protest march is Berlin, where they want to set up a tent camp and tell the German public what it is like to live as an unwanted person with nowhere to go in a country that is free for everyone else.
They say that they have had enough of the humiliation, the languor and the uncertainty in the refugee camps. There’s nothing to fill the empty days in the barren corridors of their overcrowded camps, often former army barracks – no access to education, no regular work, only countless cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and the ever present fear of deportation, they say.