The daily life of a refugee in a German air hall

What an air hall looks like by Thomas Kohler (flickr)
What an air hall looks like by Thomas Kohler (flickr)

The refugee crisis is ruling the newspapers all around the world. According to the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), 1,011,712 people arrived in Europe in 2015. And there are over 50,000 asylum seekers in Germany since the beginning of 2016. We hear all about their terrible journey over land and water to get to Europe and about the problems they can face when arriving in Europe.

Refugees welcome by Rene Dana (flickr)
Refugees welcome by Rene Dana (flickr)

But once they are brought to their temporary homes – hotels, families, farms or air halls – what happens then? How does their daily life routine look like?
I’ve been talking to some volunteers at an air hall in Germany to answer those questions.

Obviously their daily lives differ depending on where the refugees are being placed but the following article talks about an air hall in a town close to Munich, Germany, which is home to around 300 men, mainly between 18 and 30, from all the crisis areas around Africa and Asia for an indefinite period of time.

What an air hall looks like by Thomas Kohler (flickr)
What an air hall looks like by Thomas Kohler (flickr)

The men are from different parts of the world – Eritrea, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Gambia, Mali and all those other places where the circumstances are making them decide to leave their hometowns. But these men don’t really care that all those different cultures stay under one roof, even though there might be political clashes between those groups back home. “Oh well, that’s politics, here in the hall we are getting along really well”, says one of the men from the Iraq.

Of course there are some small fights here and there, but most of them are the same as they would be if you put that many people of any heritage or age in a space without actual doors 24/7. They fight about loud music at night or they fight because that one person is permanently asking for a spare cigarette. Every day problems, so to speak.

But most of the time they are peaceful together. They eat together, they play together or they have parties together.
The circle of helpers, that get together every once in a while to discuss the further projects, organises all different types of activities for the refugees, to make their stay in the air hall as pleasant as possible.

Every Monday and Friday, one nationality is cooking food from their home country together with a group of helpers for everyone who wants to join. “My favourites so far were the Pakistani. They cook so many different dishes and all of them are to die for!” says Elisabeth, one of the helpers. But, as she says, all of the dishes are interesting to try and extraordinarily good.
“The Somalis were really cute, with everything they used for cooking they asked the German word for it. They are really interested in our language”, says Julia, another one of the helpers.

Somalis at dinner
Somalis at dinner

On Tuesdays, some helpers bring games from home, such as chess or Yahtzee, to play together with the refugees. “Whenever we come in with the games they are getting really excited. Chess is their favourite, they all love playing it!” says Elisabeth.

On the other days there are different sport offers, such as soccer or swimming lessons. The community also put up a basketball hoop outside the air hall, so everyone can play whenever they feel like it.
Some nights, the helpers organise parties with traditional music from the different nationalities in the hall, they even invited a Pakistani national singer from another camp for one of those nights. Other nights the refugees gather around one of the two TVs in the hall and watch a movie – Bollywood movies are their favourites.

Just a few weeks back, the helpers organised a flea market for the refugees. Here they sold donated clothes and shoes to them for 50 cent a piece. From the earnings, the helpers were buying underwear and socks for everyone. This was supposed to make them learn, that not everything is handed to them for free and they still need to budget the 183€ they receive monthly.

Flea market for the refugees by "Helferkreis Grünwald"
Flea market for the refugees by “Helferkreis Grünwald”

All this is voluntary though. All throughout the day, they can move around freely in the hall, they can take shuttle busses into town or stroll around the neighbourhood. The air hall is also equipped with free WiFi, so the refugees have the possibility to keep in touch with their friends and families back home. Once a day for four hours, the recognised refugees, so the one which have a right to asylum in Germany (which means the ones from Syria, Eritrea and Iraq), are getting German lessons in Munich’s city centre which are paid by the government. For all the others there’s the opportunity of taking lessons from some of the voluntary German teachers around town twice a day for two hours. The voluntary German classes are not that common in refugee camps around Germany, it is more the pronounced willingness of the community around the air hall to help out.

But after all, the helpers try to entertain the refugees in a way that they don’t constantly have to think about their families they might have left in a dangerous place or the terrible journey that’s behind them.

A way of making them feel welcome in a world, where they know they have to face so many problems. Both in the present and the future.

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