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Residenzpflicht appeal - The Fight against the Residence Obligation Law in Germany

Why Felix Otto Is In Prison: A Thesis on Colonial Injustice and Crimes Against Humanity in Germany
Protest letter to the Internal Minister of Thueringen for the release of Felix Otto from the Prison in JVA Suhl

The Caravan-for the Rights of refugees and Migrants
The VOICE (Refugee) Forum Berlin
Haus Bethanien- Südflügel
Mariannenplatz 2 / 10997 Berlin
Handy:+49 (0)170/8788124
E- mail:

Residenzpflicht appeal.doc
The Fight against the Residence Obligation Law in Germany.

We are appealing to you on account of a very significant situation. Right now Mr Felix Otto, a refugee from Cameroun who has lived here for 9 years is languishing in the prison at Suhl-Goldlauter in Thüringen since 30th Marc h, 2009. He has been sentenced to eight months in prison. He has not committed any major crime. He had simply exercised his natural right to freedom of movement. I ask you to please demand for his immediate release from prison and the abol ition of the residence obligation law.

Germany is the only country in Europe with the residence obligation law.
According to this law, refugees are restricted to the particular administra tive Districts where they are registered and irrespective of the reasons and urg ency, they can only leave there with a written permission issued by the foreigner s’ office. Any refugee who violates this restriction is either fined or sent t o prison or can be both fined and imprisoned. The fine could be as much as 2500euro and the jail term as much as one year.

When refugees ask for permission they are mostly refused arbitrarily by the foreigners’ office. Those refusing the permission are not obliged to give any reason for their refusal. Moreover, there is no provision for appealing suc h refusal except by going to the court, which makes mockery of any attempt to get permission in the first place. In some Districts, refugees who only get 40euro a month have to pay 10euro for any permission. When permissions are refused and refugees are then compelled to violate the restriction, they are treated and classified as criminals and sent to prison like Felix Otto.

Back to History
We would like you to recall that on 22nd August 1938, the National Socialist s through the Foreigners’ Police Order placed a very similar restriction of movement on foreigners in Germany. The consequence of a violation then like now was both a monetary fine and a possible one year jail term. Judging from th e similarities in language, fine and
consequences of the 1938 restriction and the Residence Obligation Law, there can only be little doubt that the restricti on placed on refugees today in Germany was simply paraphrased from the racist law enacted by the dreaded Nazi regime. It was a racist law then and so is the residence law now. It is time to abolish it and the relics of the National Socialists.

For years refugees in Germany have fought to abolish the residence obligati on. They struggle against their persecution and criminalisation because the law contradicts the natural needs of human beings and violates their fundamenta l human rights. Rightly, refugees expose the discussion about integration as a discussion in pretence because of the deliberate exclusion and isolation of people through the residence obligation. Many refugees are completely seclu ded in wretched camps and have no opportunities to develop other than to endure a system of attrition and humiliation. Life in Lagers results in serious phys ical and mental depression of refugees. They want to put an end to this practice.

Refugees offer resistance against their stigmatization and criminalization by this law. Stop-and-search operations of the police are carried out because of appearance almost everywhere. That means for example that during stop-and-search operations in trains, all people who do not appear like whi te Germans are controlled with refugees without permission bearing the brunt.

The residence obligation emerged as German Law of Apartheid through the resistance of refugees against this inhumane and humiliating practice. Nobody with a conscience and sense of human dignity can tolerate such a law. The refugee resistance against this law in the form of civil disobedience and t he deliberate disregard of the invisible but ever present border deserves all forms of solidarity and support as appreciation for this existential strugg le for the betterment of the whole society.

Mbolo Yufanyi

The VOICE Network, Germany.

Solidarity Rally with Felix Otto before prison JVA-gold volume in Suhl Rally in Suhl, On Thursday, 16 July 2009, 27 Anniversary of the introduction of the residence obligation law, we are under the slogan "Solidarity with Felix Otto" a rally in front of the prison in Goldlauter/ Suhl, to oppose his Inhaftierun and for the abolition of the law to

Solidarity with Felix Otto before prison JVA Goldlauter volume in Suhl Rally in Suhl, On Thursday, 16 July 2009, 27 Anniversary of the introduction of the residence obligation law, we are under the slogan "Solidarity with Felix Otto" a rally in front of the prison in Goldlauter/Suhl by volume, to oppose his imprisonment and to demonstrate for the abolition of the law

The protest on Thursday, 16 July 2009 begins at 13.30 in Suhl City.
At 15.00 then the rally will take place in front of the prison JVA Goldlauter , Zellaer Str. 154, Suhl.

The rally will be accompanied with African Percussion - Djembe Jive Buggy (Bongo Man - Savannah beats)

The VOICE Call for donation: Free Felix Otto and Protest aginst the district Pass Law for refugess in Germany.

Protest the Pass Law in Germany - Send Letter to the Members of Parliament from your Electoral District

BREAK THE ISOLATION! Report of the protests in Erfurt - Free Felix Otto

Residenzpflicht: Refugees and migrants are victims and survivors of the intolerance

The VOICE Refugee Forum Demands the Immediate Release of Felix Otto

The 'Fortress Within': Restriction of Movement and Refugee Self-Organisation - The VOICE Online

The VOICE of the DEAD and those still going to DIE - by Yufanyi Movuh Mbolo of The VOICE Refugee Forum

On Colonial Injustice and the Continuity of Barbarity in Germany - The VOICE Refugee Forum Network:

No Deportation: Stop the colonial heritage!

Reportage on The VOICE Refugee Forum: The Rebels - Frankfurter Rundschau Press By Ascan Breuer

More links on Obligatory Residence - Residenzpflicht - Pass law for refugee in Germany:

Ahmed campaign: The Residenzpflicht - Process in Erfurt

Why I fight against the residence obligation law "residenzpflicht"...... Free Movement is for every one!

The Struggle against the Obligatory Residency Law

(Eng,Dt, Fr) Residenzpflicht: Cornelius Yufanyi Faces Imprisonment for Freedom of Movement in Germany.

Residenzpflicht Archives: Protokoll - Verhandlung im Residenzpflicht-Prozeß gegen Sunny (2000/2003)

Residenzpflicht: Sunny Omwenyeke is Free! Sunny aus dem Gefängnis entlassen (dt/eng)

Ahmed gewinnt gegen Residenzpflicht

demo in Erfurt! We are all AHMED -info in english and deutsch

Pressinfo: Refugee does not accept restriction of movement

Residential Obligation law “Residenzpflichtgesetz” Before the European Human Rights Court

Dossier #15: On Anti - Residency Obligation law "Residenzpflicht" Campaign

(Eng., Deutsch) Cornelius' Years of fighting for the right of free movement ends with imprisonment

(Eng., Deutsch) Press release: Warrant of arrest and Imprisonment for Cornelius Yufanyi.

(Eng/Deutsch) Demonstration for the rights to freedom of movement! Saturday, 12.11.2005, 12.00 Uhr, Gänseliesel in GÖTTINGEN


The following is an informal protocol and notes of:

The trial which started at about 10:15 am began with the presiding judge; Gunther Weigmann going through the personal resume of Sunny Omwenyeke (the defendant) and asked the public prosecutor (PP) if he had any further question in this respect. The public prosecutor had no questions. The judge then read the allegations against Sunny Omwenyeke; that:

1) On the 10th of April, 2000 inside an Inter Regio train between Magdeburg and Braunschweig, the boarder police from Helmstedt controlled him without a permission to leave his local district (Landkreis). 2) On the 12th of July, 2000 the police in the City of Weimar controlled him in the City without a permission to be there. The judge then asked the defendant if he had anything to say in response to these charges. To this the defendant said yes and proceeded to narrate the circumstances that led him to break the law.

The judge interrupted and wanted to know first, if the above stated controls actually took place.

The defendant said yes.
The defence counsel (DC) Ms Gabriele Heinecke, said that under the law he has to be given the chance to explain.

Judge: What was the Congress and the demonstration in Weimar about?

Defendant: The demonstration in Weimar was organised by The Caravan?for the rights of refugees and migrants of which I am a member. The Caravan is a conglomeration of different refugee and migrant groups which is fighting for the welfare of refugees and migrants in this country. The VOICE is a member of The Caravan. In The Caravan, there are people of different nationalities including Iranians. This demonstration was organised to protest the state visit of President Khatami of Iran to Weimar. The Refugee Congress in Jena was also organisesd by The Caravan and was hosted by The VOICE in Jena.

Judge: Let me get it right, when you were controlled in the train did you ask for permission, and when it was not successful, did you contest it in the court?

Defendant: First, I like to say that when I was posted to the City of Wolfsburg in November, 1998, I was made to understand and sign that if I needed to leave the City for any reason, I should ask and shall be given a permission to do so. It was in line with this that I applied for permissions to attend my various political engagements outside Wolfsburg. These permissions were granted me including one which permitted me to stay in Jena for a week.. With me here are the permissions I just talked about. (Defendant displaying the permissions) But when the officials of the foreigners office realised the intensity of my engagement, they did not like it and wanted to restrict me by denying me the permission to leave the City of Wolfsburg. On various occasions, I had heated arguments with the head of the foreigners office Mr Werner Pils who insisted that as long as he was in that office I will never be allowed to leave the City of Wolfsburg. He said this was because I belonged to The VOICE and The Caravan which were fighting the government of this country. I had so much difficulty in this regard that I had to discuss it with the Mayor of the City; Ms Ingrid Ecke on two occasions. The Congress was between 20th April and 1st May, 2000. As Secretary to the Organising Committee, I needed to attend the preparation meetings. I applied for permission but was refused. I nevertheless attended the meeting and it was on my return that I was controlled in the train. And for the Congress proper, I applied again with about 18 other refugees from my camp with the support letter of Marie?Louise Beck of the Auslännderbeauftragte in Berlin, urging the foreigners office to grant permission to all refugees willing to attend the Congress but we were all still refused.

Judge: When you were denied permission did you contest it in the court?

Defendant: I did not contest the denial of the permission to attend the preparation meetings but I did contest the denial of permission to attend the Congress proper.
The policeman who did the control in the train walks in with Ms Manduca of the foreigners office who stood in for Ms Hörnig; the prosecution witness.

Judge: Do you need the witness of the police officer who controlled you in the train?
Defendant: No. Thereafter, the judge released the police officer but asked Ms Manduca to wait outside the courtroom.

Judge: On the Congress in Jena, when the application was refused, did you contest it in the court?

Defendant: I placed an appeal before the court through my lawyer who had earlier written the foreigners office asking them to issue me a permission to attend the Congress. When I was refused even by the court, I did not appeal against their decision.
Judge: What was the result?

Defendant: The court did not find it necessary that I take part in this Congress, although I had to speak on the political situation in Nigeria at the Congress.
Judge: Did you appeal against this judgement?

Defendant: I did not because the decision came too late.
DC: The decision was not subject to appeal.

Judge: Did you have a lawyer in the case?
Defendant: Yes.

Judge: After the decision of the court, did you still attend the congress or not?
Defendant: Given my position and the role I had to play in the Congress, I had no alternative than to attend. So, I attended the Congress without any permission.
Judge: After having approached the Mayor of the City and with the letter of Marie?Louise Beck of the Ausländerbeauftragte, did you apply for permission again?

Defendant: After my contacts with the Mayor who promised to intervene, I made more applications but they were all rejected.
Judge: After the court rejected your application to attend the congress in Jena did you still apply?
Defendant: After the application was denied even with the letter of Ms Beck, I did not apply anymore because, it did not make any sense.

Judge: You mentioned the conversation with Mr. Pils, where he said as long as he was there, you could not get any permission. What time was that?

Defendant: I cannot remember exactly but each time I approached his officers and they refused, I always demanded to see him and always spoke to him.

Judge: Do you have any writing from Frau Beck in Berlin?

Defendant: I don’t have it here but I have a copy at home.

Judge: The application you made was it verbal or in writing?

Defendant: What I understood was that to ask for permission, you present the programme or the invitation, and that was how I got the ones I got before.

Judge: Do you have a notice of rejection?

Defendant: They never put it in writing. The only exception was when my lawyer wrote for me and it was also refused, it was after that that we went to court.
The judge then asked the PP if he had any question for the defendant. He said he had none.
Defendant‘s Cross-Examination by Defence Counsel: Ms Gabriele Heinecke.
DC: How far is your asylum process?

Defendant: I have already been called to the court on 30th November, 2000 but no decision has yet been taken.

DC: And after two years or even more, there is nothing by the foreigners office to show that you could go to any where you liked within the country or at least loosen the restriction?

Defendant: Not until one is accepted, one cannot go anywhere without a permission. The restiction remains.
DC: You had been temporarily allowed to attend some programmes. (DC reads out past permissions the defendant got before and the programmes they were made for).
DC: You mentioned earlier on ”The VOICE” and ”The Caravan”. What are these organisations actually about?

Defendant: The VOICE is a refugee organisation, fighting for the rights and welfare of refugees. It is composed of refugees from different parts of the world, especially African refugees. The Caravan is a conglomeration of different refugee and migrant groups and The VOICE is a member of The Caravan.

DC: You mentioned earlier on that you are refused permission because the foreigners office says these organisations are working against Germany. Is it true that they are working against Germany?

Defendant: No! They work for the welfare and rights of refugees and migrants in this country.

DC: Does the Mayor recognise that you fight for the welfare of refugees?

Defendant: I guess so. I have had discussions with the mayor where we highlighted the problems of refugees and I believe she understood and that is why she wanted to intervene. DC: And the Ausländerbeauftragte?

Defendant: She recognised the work of The Caravan and that was why she wrote to all the foreigners Offices, asking them to give permission to refugees to attend the Congress in Jena.
DC: Can you say exactly when you had the discussion with the Mayor?

Defendant: After I led a demonstration to her office following the police control we had in the camp, I had an audience with her where I raised the issue. She promised to come and see us in the camp. Within two months, she actually came and there I brought up the issue again and she promised to talk to the officials at the foreigners office. But there were no changes.
DC: When did you talk to Frau Beck?

Defendant: I did not personally speak to her, but co?organisers of the Congress approached her after which she wrote to all foreigners offices in Germany to grant permission to refugees willing to attend the Congress in Jena.

DC: Did she directly write to the foreigners office?

Defendant: She wrote for all refugees to take to their various foreigners offices.
DC: In the Congress in Jena, you said you were the Secretary to the Organising Committee, do you have people to testify to your role in the Congress?

Defendant: I was the Secretary to the Organising Committee and here in this court right now, we have the Secretary General of The VOICE; Mr Theophilus Emiowele and The Co?ordinator of the Congress, Mr. Cornelius Yufanyi also of The VOICE.

DC: I like to cancel my mandate because we don’t know the reasons why the foreigners office did what they did. As regards the charges, he faces the chances of being criminalised because of his political commitment and engagements. The issues being raised here are about human rights and human dignity. I demand that he deserves a fair hearing. I apply that the defendant have a mandatory legal representation.
PP: The issues involved in this case are not as complicated as the DC is trying to portray it, I think Mr. Omwenyeke can defend himself.

DC: There are some private discussions as regards such issues. For example in the lower courts, it has been noted and recognised that it is against the dignity of man to keep somebody within a limited vicinity. So I am of the strong opinion that Mr. Omwenyeke cannot defend himself as a result of what is involved as well as the language and other complications.

Judge: Have you chosen a lawyer now? Do you want to continue with Ms Heinecke?
Defendant: Yes. Ms. Gabriele Heinecke.
Judge: The situation seems complicated, a law has been contravened, and for this reason you need a defence counsel. I rule that the motion for a mandatory DC is hereby granted.
Testimony of Ms Manduca (50) a staff of the foreigners office. She was invited into the courtroom by the Judge and she introduced herself and her occupation. She stated that she was standing in for her colleague; Ms Hörnig who could not be present. The DC consulted with the defendant and she was allowed to take the witness stand.
Ms Manduca: The whole issue is about leaving your station without permission.

Judge: Did the defendant apply to go to Weimar.
Ms. Manduca: No!

Judge: When did he apply last for permission?
Ms. Manduca: 4th April 2000.

Judge: In what form did he apply for the permission?

Ms. Manduca: According to the file here, it was a verbal application to attend a Congress in Jena and the application was not successful.

Judge: Was there a written decision?

Ms. Manduca: There was no written decision, but the lawyer had appealed and there was a decision.
Judge: Did the foreigners office take a position against this declination, what are the reasons of the foreigners office decision?

Ms. Manduca: She read out the position of the foreigners office. According to the law she said, the asylum seeker has no right to leave his officially designated residence, except for special reasons, which could mean the reason to take care of daily needs. In this instance, the defendant was asking for a permission to go to a Congress whose motto contradicted the basic legal conditions. For example, the theme of the Congress was ”Unite Against deportation” This shows he was engaging in activities to forestall his own pending deportation. There were no grounds to take care of any basic needs. Moreover the applicant was leaving for another federal state. This means that not only was he leaving his local district, he was leaving his state. It was a reason not to grant the permission. The conduct of the defendant for example, since he entered this country shows that he has been trying to avoid his own deportation. He refused to co?operate, he could not remember his name or where he kept his passport. At one point, he even occupied the foreigners office with about nine of his colleagues. Based on his conduct so far, it is suspected that the applicant is using permission to travel to avoid deportation and engage in actions that would obstruct his deportation. The second theme in the Congress reads: ”We Are Here Because You Destroy Our Countries”. This contradicts the German law and it was an attempt to wipe up the emotions of refugees throughout the country.

Under social marginalisation, one can understand why his social help was cut, especially when no identity was given. Such activities go against the law. The decision to deny him permission was not a hard one. One can also see that the organisations are acting against the constitution, by saying that ”We Are Here Because You Destroy Our Countries”. It meant that the emotions of the refugees were being played up and not to inform on refugee problems.

Judge: What about the previous applications the defendant made?

Ms. Manduca reads to the hearing of the court, previous permission obtained by the defendant and for what purposes.

Judge: The DC has tendered an application for the file to be made available.
Ms. Manduca: The file can be made available but it has to be seen by the DC in the presence of a staff of the foreigners office.

*A short argument on the right to look into the file without the presence of any staff of the foreigners office ensued between the DC and the Judge. The DC wanted the Judge to compel the foreigners office to submit the file but the Judge declined that he could not do that.
Finally, the Judge concluded that the issue will be settled later. This was followed by a break of about 45 mins.

Ms. Manduca later made available copies of the letter from the Ausländerbeauftragte in Berlin Frau Beck, in addition to two other copies of writings in the foreigners office file of the defendant.
Judge: During the break, the DC suggested that the case be closed because the charges are minimal. The suggestion of the DC is going to be looked into by the PP and the Judge will rule on it.
DC: It is possible under the law for me to suggest that the case be closed because the information presented by Ms. Manduca contains a lot of falsehood, because the defendant at no time tried to stop his deportation as there was no threat to that effect. I am of the opinion that the defendant because of his active political engagement had to ask for permission, and if he had been given these permission we would not have been here today in this court.

PP: I would not like to embark on the speculation that if the defendant had been given permission when he asked for, we would not have been sitting in this court today. When somebody is restricted to a place, he should remain there. But because the defendant had always asked for permissions to go for his political engagements and activities we could close this case without any further hearing and formal sentence.
The DC then moved a motion for a 15 mins. break to allow her consult with the defendant. This was accepted by the Judge. On resumption, the DC informed the Judge that the defendant will like to make the declaration himself. The judge accepted and gave the defendant the chance.

Defendant‘s Declaration

I accept the proposition by my lawyer to close the case. I will like to go to the Administrative Court to know why the foreigners office lied against me.
My lawyer will be ready to clarify the allegations of not co?operating with the police in respect of my identity and the foreigners office position on the issue of my deportation.

We shall also be appealing the decision to deny me permission to attend the Congress of last year.
That the court recognises that I would be permitted to go wherever I want to carry out my political activities, to enable me fulfil the reason why I am in this country, because my being here is for my political engagement.
The fact of this case exonerates me and I see it as a victory.
Judge cuts in. This is not correct, when I close the case, it does not mean that you are exonerated or free to go anywhere in the country without permission, but that the charges brought against you in this particular case have been agreed by both the DC and the PP to be dropped because, the guilt is minimal.
Defendant continues: I recognise this but nevertheless, I regard it as a victory that the charges are dropped and am not subject to any fines.
This decision today exposes the injustice of this law and it is very significant for my engagement. I therefore call on all my fellow refugees to get engaged to enhance our struggle to abolish this inhuman law which is a gross violation of our natural and fundamental human rights as it denies our freedom of movement.
Judge: I just want to know if you agreed to the suggestion of your lawyer. Just say yes or no. Defendant: Yes. I agree.

Judge: I’ll like to formally close this case. I will also like to say that I support your decision to further pursue the case in the Administrative Court. Furthermore, it is your right to carry out your political work through legal means. Should the authorities refuse to give you permissions, you can appeal their decisions and it is not in your interest to take the law into your hands. Your problem is with the foreigners office, and you should settle it with the Administrative Court. The charges are dropped and case closed with the cost of proceedings borne by the state.
The hearing which was punctuated by two breaks and attended by about one hundred and seventy refugees and supporters lasted about four hours.


At the end of the trial, supporters were addressed by Sunny Omwenyeke who thanked everybody present including the Press and those whose could not attend the hearing due to their schedule. He said a demonstration has been planned for the 19th of May, 2001 in Berlin to further show the will of refugees and their determination to see that the law is abolished. He said the decision today is clearly a victory for the engagements and struggle of the refugees and that weak as refugees are in this society, it is possible for refugees to fight for their rights and win in Germany. This, he said has been attested to by the proceedings and decision of the just concluded hearing. He therefore called on all refugees to be fully engaged in fighting peacefully to see to the abolishment of this law. Earlier in his address, he said the trial today no doubt should convince people of how mischievous the various foreigners offices can be by blatantly telling lies against innocent refugees.
Generally, the trial was closely watched by different supporting groups from all over the country and human rights organisations. The Caravan?for the rights of refugees and migrants on it's part, takes very seriously the declaration from the foreigners office that the way in which we use the slogan "we are here because you destroy our countries" is against the German constitution. This we feel marks the beginnings of a serious legal/political attack on the Caravan and we are preparing to defend ourselves.

Your Honour,


I stand before you today in defence of my humble self and my natural and civil rights to freedom of movement as a human being. Today I stand accused as a violator of the law and a criminal. Saying that I violated the law is to state the obvious. But I am not a criminal by any known standard; not even in the most primitive civil societies let alone in any developed society in the 21st century; except by this unique standard which is applicable only to refugees in this country, a country that prides itself as the most developed in the whole of Europe.

Before narrating the incidences that led to the violations for which I am now charged, I will quickly like to point out the meaning of the existence of this law (or a paragraph(s) of it) against the backdrop of it’s impact on innocent refugees. I cannot speculate on why the political leadership of the time enacted this law in 1982 (because, the official reasons aduced are simply too frivolous) but I can say definitely that it has been and remains the most effective means of criminalising refugees in this country for political reasons. The existence of this law makes even the most law?abiding refugee a criminal. It inherently criminalises refugees. This is because, it is forbidden for any refugee to leave his immediate district without a written permission from the foreigner’s office. Not only does this law violate the privacy and individuality of refugees, as it compels us to disclose our private plans and agenda to officers at the foreign offices ? who are strangers to our private lives, it is a circumvention and a violation in the most attrocious manner, of all international treaties to which Germany is a willing signatory, which borders on the dignity and freedom of a human being.

The lack of freedom of movement automatically impedes on my human dignity, my right to freedom of association and expression contrary to the provision and protection of same under the Geneva Convention, the European Community Human Rights Declaration and the German constitution. In the German constitution, provisions are made for the dignity of every human being to be respected and protected. I cannot imagine that when the writers of this constitution wrote this that they meant it only for Germans. They must have recognised that foreigners live in this country but never prescribed discrimination in the constitution as to how they should be treated, ( at least in respect of our human dignity and freedom of movement as a human being.) With it’s existence and enforcement, this law dehumanises and humiliates me. It discriminates against me and totally destroys my dignity as a human being contrary to the provisions of the constitution and treaties refered above.

When I was posted to Wolfsburg in November 1998, I was made to understand and compelled to sign that should I need to leave the territory of Wolfsburg, I shall need, ask and be given a permission from the foreigners’ office. It was against this background that I demanded permission to leave Wolfsburg a couple of days later. I sought and obtained the earliest permissions including one which permitted me to spend a week’s period in Jena for the International Human Rights Week of December 7th?12th 1998, which was hosted by The VOICE. Although this particular permission was not written for me due to bureacratic bottlenecks, my trip was nevertheless allowed. This was tested during the Week’s activities there in Jena when I was controlled by the police who called the foreigners’ office in Wolfsburg. They confirmed that I was allowed and I had no problems.

After this, I presented on different and countless occasions, invitations from various refugee groups and similar organisations to the foreigners’ office only to be denied the permission to leave Wolfsburg. This was because, they realised and were not comfortable with the intensity of my political engagement and wanted to curtail my political activism. Occasionally, when they felt happy and in good mood, they issued me the permission without any problem. This continued for a long time that I became fraustrated. I then began to ask the reasons for their refusal. From Mrs Schlichting to Mr. Maxara and Mr. Stahl to Mrs. Hörnig; they all insisted that they were not allowed to issue me any permission. The result of such refusals and my insistence led to my demand to speak with the head of the foreigners’ office. This was how I was led on several occasions to Mr. Werner Pils. The encounters were usually of heated arguments with him insisting on the refusals. On several occasions, I asked him pointedly, why I was being denied the permission to leave Wolfsburg and participate in the political activities which brought me to this country in the first place? He said that „unfortunately as a refugee in this country, I have absolutely no right to participate in politics: whether as it relates to my country or as it relates to my wellbeing here as a refugee“. He continued that „refusing to let me leave Wolfsburg is to ensure that I am restricted from further participation in any such activities“. He added that „my membership of The VOICE and The Caravan and the activities of these groups amounts to fighting the government of this country which has been magnanimous enough to host me“. He concluded that „as long as he remains in that office, I will never be allowed to leave Wolfsburg again“. When he said this, I told him that it was such repressions in Nigeria, coupled with the lack of freedom to express myself as well as the danger it constituted to my life that led to my flight from Nigeria and that he was painfully making me to re?live those sad and horrible experiences. So on the whole, I was only able to obtain permission eight times since November 1998 till date. (Attached are photocopies ). These of course includes the permission he was forced to issue when I was invited by the Federal Parliament in Berlin.

Given the humiliation, discrimination and denial which characterised virtually all my requests for permissions, I decided not to go back there and ask for permission anymore. However, when I assumed the position of Secretary to the Organising Committee for the Caravan International Refugee Congress, (20th April ? 1st May, 2000) which was hosted by my group; The VOICE, in Jena, I decided to apply again for permission for the benefit of doubt. I was refused permission by Frau Honing in consultation with Mr. Werner Pils. Given the workload in preparing for both local and international guests (over a thousand people attended the Congress), I had no option than to leave Wolfsburg without a permission to attend the preparation meetings in Jena. It was on my return from one of these preparation meetings that I was controlled inside the train between Magdeburg and Braunschweig on the 10th of April, 2000. For the Congress proper, I also applied for permission along with other refugees in Wolfsburg and we were all refused. This was inspite of the support letter from Frau Beck of the „Ausländerbeauftragte“ urging the foreigners’ office to issue permissions to all refugees willing to attend the Congress. Meanwhile, I had written invitations to many of our international guests across Europe, Asia, South and North America who all obtained visas with the invitations and attended the Congress.

In the course of the Congress, it was evidently clear that not only were refugees deliberately refused permissions to leave their districts, we were victims of the oppressive political will of the authorities to ensure our silence irrespective of whatever conditions we are subjected to. This became clear as some Interior Ministers threatened to imprison refugees who attended the Congress. It was against this background that refugees all over the country resolved in the Congress, to fight for the restoration of our freedom of movement which though is a part and parcel of our fundamental human rights, but has been grossly violated by the existence and application of this law.

Your Honour, the second control for which I am now charged resulted in the course of my participation in the demonstrations against the visit of President Khatami of Iran to Weimar on July 12th, 2000. As the Coordinator of The VOICE in Niedersachsen and an active member of The Caravan?for the rights of refugees and migrants, I participated in these demonstrations not only because it was organised by the groups that I belonged to, but to show international solidarity and support for my fellow comrades from Iran who as Iranians in exile like my humble self, reserved the rights to voice their opposition to the visit of a president whose actions have led to the flight of many from their beloved homeland.
Your Honour, the issues that I humbly plead before this court today for considerations are:
1. That as a refugee who is in this country on account of my political opinion and activities, to deny me any opportunity of continuing all such political engagements, through the deliberate refusal of permissions to leave the City of Wolfsburg, seeks to place me in a state of political coma and impotence. It further leads me to painfully re?live those sad and horrible experiences which I had under the dictatorial governments in my country and which resulted in my flight to Germany.
2. That on various occasions, I fulfilled the requirements needed to obtain a permission from the foreigners office ? by presenting invitations and addresses of the places of events, but was denied by the foreigners office on the decision of Mr. Werner Pils. These refusals were subjective.
3. That I exhibited the willingness to obey the law as shown by the permissions I obtained from the foreigners office but was later compelled into a situation where I had to break the law by Mr. Pils continued refusal to issue me permissions.
4. That the head of the foreigners office, Mr. Werner Pils be held responsible for taking decisions which effectively denied me such permissions and constitutes a violation of my rights.
5. That I was continuously treated with scorn and disdain and was always humiliated by the staff of the foreigners office. The resulting antagonistic and hostile atmosphere led me raise the issue with The Mayor of the City Mrs. Ecke on two different occasions, who promised to intervene. But as there were no changes, I was discouraged from going back there to seek any further permission.
6. That the law itself is not consistent with the provisions and protection of the dignity of human beings as spelled out in both the Geneva Convention and the European Community Declaration on Human Rights, to which Germany is a signatory.
7. That this particular provision of the law violates my fundamental and inallienable right to freedom of movement, free association and expression as a human being contrary to the protection of the dignity of man that is guaranteed by the German constitution.
8. Finally, given that the law is dehumanising and inconsistent with the provisions of the German constitution and a violation of the above mentioned international treaties, I ask that it be declared illegal, null and void.
Sunny Omwenyeke

actions and campaigns against Obligatory Residency

Proposal for actions and campaigns against Obligatory Residency
State Abuses of Freedom and Democracy in Germany


Challenges facing the campaign and struggle of The VOICE Refugee Forum against the Obligatory Residency

1) State Abuses of Freedom and Democracy in Germany
German state abuses and violations of Human Rights as well as exclusion and persecution of refugees are innumerable. They are closely related to the protest of refugees against restrictions placed on their free movement in Germany.

Germany is one of the richest countries of the world that control and exploit the current total world resources. These countries are not only involved in the exploitation of the natural and human resources but they also directly or indirectly influence the economical and political decision making in the exploited home countries of the refugees. It is needless to say that this breeds war, hate, human rights abuses, displacement of persons, flight, refugees, collapse of the economy, etc.

The long disturbing German tradition of exclusion of identified classes or groups of persons, restriction of movement of these groups, execution and exploitation and the instrumentalisation of “democratic” reforms to even enhance further repression of refugees and migrants are part of the agenda to be discussed with activists, campaigners and supporters.

2) Challenges facing the abolition of the Residency Obligation and the social exclusion of refugees
The campaign of The VOICE Refugee Forum against the Apartheid-like Residency Obligation which restricts refugees to their designated districts has been constant and consistent. It includes much more than just denouncing the psychological abuses and the loss of rights associated with this law, which has its legal precedence in a police decree issued in 1938 during the Nazi regime. The activists of The VOICE Refugee Forum have initiated and are executing the campaign against the Residency obligation through civil disobedience by refusing to pay the fines for violations of the Residency Obligation. These activists have either been imprisoned or threatened with imprisonment in the name of this discriminatory and racist legislation against the freedom of movement of refugees.

The abolition of the Residency Obligation has become the main focus of The VOICE Refugee activists in the last years, as they have politically challenged this form of racist social exclusion in Germany. Germany is the only country in Europe that practices the Residency Obligation, which was re-introduced in 1982 as part of a socio-political reform of exclusion and repression of refugees. It is also note-worthy that Germany carries out more deportations of foreigners than any other country in Europe.

3) The Struggle of The VOICE Refugee Forum against the Residency Obligation

We demand the immediate and total abolition of the Residency Obligation and any restictions of innate rights for refugees in Germany. In the last ten years, we have been advancing the course and political struggles of refugees in Germany. We have had successfull protests and public interventions in the campaign against the Apartheid-like restriction of refugees and migrants. This includes also campaigns against deportation, discrimination and criminalisation of refugees, migrants and foreigners as a whole. We have meanwhile been part of the Caravan for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants since its inception in 1998.

The International Refugee Congress in the year 2000 in Jena (Thüringen) was a turning point in our history. Refugees and migrants met with other activists from Germany, Europe and the rest of the world. The campaign and struggles against Residency Obligation were launched by refugees in the aftermath of this congress. Mass protests and actions against deportations, deportation prisons, police brutality, racist police controls, isolation camps, restrictions of any kind, criminalisation, facism etc. have developed since then. There have also been countless demonstration, campaigns and a number of court trials on those, who have refused to pay the stipulated fines for violating the Residency Obligation in protest.

The cases of Cornelius and Sunny have been through the various levels of judicial process up to the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe which refused to entertain the cases. Both cases are now at the European Court for Human Rights in Strassburg. Most recently, we had a huge success with the case of Ahmed in the court in Erfurt. Similarly, the case of Janak was also won and he has since then even been recognised as a political asylum seeker.

In the light of the above highlighted efforts on our part, we would like to invite other activists, groups or organisations that are active in the political struggles in Germany. We call upon activists from basic groups and organisations that have supported and contributed politically to the campaign, including the media network, to enter into the discussion, to broaden and the enhance the campaign.

Amongst other issues, we would like discussions the following:
1. The refugee struggle and the autonomy of protest
2. The new immigration law and its regulation of deportation and widening state control
3. “Fortress Europe” as a part of the global Apartheid of the neo-colonial repression against migrants and migration here and in their home countries.
4. Recent examples of the ongoing expansion of lager (camps) for the concentration of refugees in detention and the militarization of migration control
Our continuation of the struggles of refugees in Germany has been inspired mainly by the solidarity and self determination of the old and new members of old The VOICE Africa Forum and now The VOICE Refugee Forum, and of course by others who support the political community of refugees and migrants activists in Germany.

4) Our intentions
Put shortly, we would first of all achieve the following within the activist network and also beyond: presentations of refugees and non refugee activists on the struggle of The VOICE campaign against the Residency Obligation, developing an understanding of the refugees' resistance against Residency Obligation and information about the campaign network.

While addressing the mobilisation and our struggle for freedom of movement we would also like to evaluate the Residency Obligation campaign and the networking structures among refugees for political information and other discussions on public space and support.
The following points seem to be of importance in order to re-invegorate the campaign and push for the abolition of the Residency Obligation:

• Review of campaign documentation on Residency Obligation
• Reports and media coverage on: the refugee struggle, litigation at the European Human Rights Court against the Residency Obligation; court hearings and imprisonment of refugee activists; the new Immigration Law with its regulations for deportation and Residency Obligation
• German lobbism to implement the Residency Obligation as a corner stone of EU Asylum Policies
• Case study: The disobedience of Ahmed Sameer and other comparable cases
• Concrete political demands backed with information on refugees that have been physically abused, arrested, tried, fined and punished for violating the Residency Obligation
• How German segregated legislation violates the fundamental right of free movement
• Criminalisation of movement: the contradiction between migration and political strategies for socio-political, economic and physical restriction of migrants
• The connection between German political corruption, confinement of refugees and discriminatory laws on the one hand and neo-colonial global exploitation on the other hand
• Strategies for civil disobedience, court trials, public protests and direct actions against racist police controls and regular meeting of refugees to exchange information.
• The interrelation between struggle against Residency Obligation and other forms of resistance against any kind of repression and social exclusion.
We will reflect upon the strategical developments and protests against the Residency Obligation in the last years. We urgently need a thourough evaluation to inject new ideas, perspectives and power into our campaign and resistance. Freedom of movement is the main weapon of our survival, for self organisation and settlement. If we cannot move freely, we cannot defend ourselves, we cannot shape our lives and take part in social engagement. The restriction of movement is the source of further restriction. To put it short: We cease to exist as a social and political human being if we cannot move freely! Freedom of movement is therefore the divine resource of our birth and existence – it should not be a subject of negotiation!

It is often easy to forget:

It’s not about lobbism and there is no compromise!
We uphold the solidarity for the right to freedom of movement for refugees and migrants.
We are one world and one people!

We will call on various assemblies, organisations, groups and individuals to support the initiatives of The VOICE Refugee Forum campaign against the Residency Obligation for refugees in Germany.
You can contact us under at:,


Protest March
Freedom of movement for refugees
on 17.-19. Mai 2001 in Berlin

We Demand the Immediate and Unconditional Abolition of German Apartheid Residential Restriction and the Obligation Laws "Landkreis-Residenzpflichtgesetz" against the Refugees in Germany!
We protest against the permanent controls and the persecution of refugees by the German authorities, the politicians and the Legislation responsible.
Movement is our (my) individual and fundamental Right!
Join the Civil Disobedience!

In a democratic land the only reason for state authorities control and monitoring of persons is to keep the peace and to protect other members of the society. Such a control should be done on the base of the constitution without prejudice of origin, religion, colour or race of the controlled person. The reality in Germany is another.

Refugees in Germany are victims of the "Residenzpflichtgesetz", a system of residential restriction like the Apartheid in the former racist South Africa. Also Germany has its Pass Law. It is for Refugees forbidden to move free in Germany. They are not allowed to leave the local district where they are confined as habitation places. They must live in the refugee homes, often in isolated areas and in the woods. These laws in reality put migrants under segregating police controls. These controls are run on the base of the external differences between migrant people and the white German majority.

The Freedom of movement is non-negotiable and should be protected by each democratic society as the foundation of the development of the human personality.

Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that Germany is a signatory states: Every human being has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each nation... We (I) therefore strongly protest this police control restricting freedom of movement as an act of discrimination and total disregard of human dignity and human rights, like the Pass Laws of the Apartheid Era in South Africa. The residential restriction Law is the base for racist motivated selective police enforcements; based on "race", body colour, religion and nationality, which is not only unconstitutional and uncivilised but endangered the refugees, the general insecurity of the refugees and the migrants in Germany are forcefully executed by the authorities.

This police control restricting movement of the refugees without a crime, is an act of intentionally inflicting severe pain of physical and mental suffering, instigated by the state institutions, intimidating and destroying personal development, constituting deliberate cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment; For which the state officials are protected when they do not permit the freedom of movement ensuring Institutionalised Racism, violating data protection laws by investigating the privacy of persons including Germans who associate with the refugees and migrants. They do that accordingly to a law, which forbids the refugees' individual right of free movement.

These police controls are made criminal by the forceful fingerprinting and photography leading to an opening of a criminal file according to the German-Foreigners law-(AuslG) article 36 and the German law governing asylum application(AsylVFG) article 56. The state prosecution for freedom of movement brings about state and police brutality by battering and stripping-off, putting fingers into the mouth and anus that sometimes lead to police murder.

This apartheid residential restriction -Obligation Pass law "Residenzpflichtgesetz" makes a refugee an open suspect without being a criminal that leads to racist detentions without crime according to (article 59 of the German law governing asylum application-AsylVFG). A repeated violation of this apartheid residential restriction -obligation "Pass law" exposes the refugee to a jail term of up to one year, at the discretion of the state authorities by (Article 85 No.2, and Article 59 of the law governing asylum application-AsylVG). You may be fined as much as 5000DM according to article 86 of the German asylum law (AsylVFG) for the violation of the Apartheid residential restriction -Obligation "pass law" and if the fine cannot be paid by the refugee who gets meagre 80DM per month, he or she is slave worked as punishment for the fine. This is exploitation that is repressive and prohibited by the United Nations declaration of human rights Articles 4,5,6,9,13 and 14.

With this criminalization controls we are (I am) treated as potential criminals or murderers, a refugee could be lawfully detained and put into custody awaiting deportation for 18 months without having committed a crime as regulated in Article 57 of the German-foreigners law (AuslG) and Article 59 of the law governing asylum application (AsylVFG). Are we (Am I) as travellers equal to murderers in Germany? We (I) protest racist control, arrest, detention and the institutionalised racism.

Germans often forgot or ignored the fact that they benefited more than other countries from international asylum rights - first in the Nazi-Era, when many German people searched for asylum all over the world, the second time after World War Two, when even guilty Nazi people obtained asylum rights in foreign countries including the countries of the refugees and migrants of today under the protection of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Right. But how is the situation now in Germany? The German reality is the political destruction of the individual and fundamental asylum rights for refugees and migrants, of which the German society must be reminded of their historical duty against destruction!

The German state global politics of refugee repression is in continuous escalation and collaboration with the fascists, dictators and the corrupt regime in the refugees' countries.

We (I) protest, calling for the immediate abolition of the Apartheid Residential Restriction -Obligation Pass Law "Residenzpflichtgesetz" which exist only in Germany since 1982. Our protest against the discrimination of refugees is part of our(my) political engagement for the continuation of our (my) political struggle for human freedom in exile, as our (my) right to freedom of opinion, expression and association regardless of frontiers is also restricted, in violation of Articles 13, 19, 20, 27 and 29 of the universal declaration of human rights which Germany ratified.

For any compromise with the restriction of the individual right of movement and the confinement of refugees, are political corruption, discrimination and gross human right abuse.

We (I) appeal against this control forbidding our (my) individual and fundamental right to move, forbidding our (my) right to live, for movement is life and freedom for liberty in an expected democratic state.

Stop enforcing racial laws. There is one-humanity and it cannot be divided by anyone or the German state.
It is time now for civil disobedience! Break the Apartheid Residential Restriction Obligation "Pass Law"!
Free Movement is Our Right! Germany is not safe for Refugees!
17-19.May 2001 Protest March and Demonstrations in Berlin
Abolish Residential Restriction -Obligation "Pass Law" (Landkreis-Residenzpflichtgesetz): Law governing asylum applications (Asylverfahrensgesetz) Article 56 and German-Foreigners' Law (Ausländergesetz) Article 36 against the Freedom of movement for refugees in Germany.

Die Karawane for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants in Germany

Invisible Borders - 'Residenzpflicht'

/Refugees, while they are either in the asylum process or live in
Germany with a so-called 'Duldung', are facing invisible borders in
their everyday life. For example they are only allowed to move within a
certain area due to the 'Residenzpflicht' ('duty of residence'). At the
same time they are forced to live in refugee homes or camps, that are
often at the edge or outside of regular settlement areas./
/ /
/Voucher systems instead of cash benefits, but also police controls in
train stations and trains targeting people who look 'foreign',
stigmatise refugees and intensify their social isolation. is Residenzpflicht?

What is Residenzpflicht?

by Anke Schwarzer

Shopping at the nearest supermarket, visiting relatives, taking a short trip with the German railway’s reduced week-end ticket or playing football on the field across the street – everyday activities like these can prove the undoing of refugees in Germany. Since 1982 asylum seekers whose applications are still being processed have been subject to residency restrictions in accordance with the Asylverfahrensgesetz (German law governing asylum application procedure) §56 – the so-called Residenzpflicht. They may not leave the district in which the Ausländerbehörde (immigration authorities office) at which they are registered, is located. As the legal proceedings determining asylum cases can take a very long time, the regulation can lead in extreme cases to a refugee being subject to this law for up to ten years. Getting a permit for a small trip is extremely difficult. Sometimes asylum seekers even have to pay for their walk in the park or visit to the doctor; a permit can cost between 15 and 20 marks.

It gets even more expensive if they are found by the police outside of the county in which they are registered. And that can happen quite easily, as the »Sondergesetze für Flüchtlinge« (special laws regarding refugees) give the police sufficient grounds for picking out foreign-looking people in train stations or highway rest areas and demanding their ID. Police raids in housing for asylum seekers are also a matter of routine.

Aside from the police, bureaucrats in the government offices responsible for refugees also make life difficult. They have the power to determine where a refugee can live, and where not. They decide – this varies from district to district – where asylum seekers may travel, how often they can visit a friend, when they can see their relatives, and if they can go to political meetings.
The following points are made in the official justification of Residenzpflicht: maintaining public order and security, better distribution of public costs, and the ability to reach asylum seekers more quickly during asylum proceedings.

What are the consequences of residency restrictions, or the so-called

Restriction of asylum seekers’ freedom to travel has created invisible new borders in Germany. Politically drawn »intra-German borders« essentially limit the free development of the asylum seeker as a person. Residenzpflicht restricts the asylum seekers’ freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. It makes it difficult to keep in touch with friends and acquaintances. Refugee children cannot meet other children in a nearby city. Freedom of religion is also restricted when asylum seekers are barred from going to the mosque or to congregation meetings. For many asylum seekers, the right to information can only be observed in distant cities because the area in which they are forced to reside is often a political and cultural void.

Residenzpflicht not only restricts refugees’ freedom of movement and humiliates them when they have to beg bureaucrats for permits or when they are controlled by the police. Residenzpflicht can also be life-threatening. The consequences of residency restrictions are often desperate escape attempts that can result in injury or death. On the evening of October 7, 2000, 2 chairwomen of the African Refugees Association, afraid of being convicted of violating Residenzpflicht, jumped out of a 4th story window in a private house in Hamburg. The two women were alone in the apartment when the police rang the bell. As asylum seekers from Togo, they possessed valid residency papers for the Federal Republic of Germany but were registered as refugees in a different state. In jumping out of the window, one woman broke several vertebra. The second woman ended up with a fractured spine and must now face the prospect of life in a wheelchair.

Repeated violations of the Residenzpflicht can result in a prison term of up to one year, a fine of up to 5,000 German marks or deportation. According to the Landratsamt (county government) of Wartburg, traveling without a permit constitutes a considerable threat to public order and security and is in significant conflict with the interests of the Federal Republic. Repeated violations of the Residenzpflicht should therefore lead to the asylum seeker’s deportation. No explanation is offered as to exactly which body of law is supposedly endangered by traveling without a permit. The bureaucrats argue along more general lines, claiming the need for deterrent measures. Other foreigners should be shown their place and »made to behave in accordance with the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany.« Especially in combination with forced residency in so-called »Sammelunterkünften« (group housing), often located in remote areas, Residenzpflicht functions as a legislative tool of German deterrence policy.

The Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie e.V. (Committee for Basic Rights and Democracy) condemns the legal sanctioning of refugees simply because they’ve crossed county borders. The committee declared in October 2000, that »the Sondergesetze (special laws) against refugees are discriminatory and infringe on basic rights« and that »abolishing them is the only appropriate action that the political class can take in the much touted campaign against right-wing extremism, ’Ruck gegen Rechts’.«

A map that tried to show refugees’ freedom of movement would look like a map of the small German states of the 18th century, said Bernd Mesovic of Pro Asyl in April, 2001. He continued, »that – the 18th century, that is – is where the word, ’residenz’ (residency), belongs. Refugees, though, don’t reside; they live in temporary living conditions, as dictated by the law regarding minimum standards for communal housing. This is intended to show them and others that their stay is only temporary (even if it lasts years).« Since the 1980s, the UNHCR, or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has also been critical of the »unique deterrence measures used against asylum seekers«.

The refugee organisations, The Voice and the Brandenburger Flüchtlingsinitiative, compare Residenzpflicht with the pass laws of the South African apartheid system. »Refugees in Germany are victims of the Residenzpflicht, a system of residency assignments and restrictions, comparable to the era of racist apartheid in South Africa. Germany, too, has its ’pass laws’. Refugees are forbidden to move freely in Germany. They may not leave the county to which they have been assigned and are obligated to live in the refugee housing that has been assigned to them (often located in remote areas or in the middle of woods).«

Many refugees point out that Residenzpflicht (in addition to many other laws such as the so-called »Asylbeweberleistungsgesetz«) not only restricts their rights but also marks them as »not equal« or »different«, »less important« and »weak« in comparison to Germans. Cornelius Yufanyi of The Voice says, »the laws make us – the refugees – weak and that is also how the Germans see us. These laws fuel the violence of the far-right.« And Christopher Nsoh of the Brandenburger Flüchtlingsinitiative comments, »German laws have generated [a class of] ’inferior’ people.«

The history of and perspectives on resistance against Residenzpflicht

by Anke Schwarzer

Asylum seekers affected by Residenzpflicht have been trying to defend themselves against restrictions on their freedom of movement ever since the measure was introduced in 1982. For a long time, their efforts were limited to individual actions: some simply didn’t ask for permission; others took the legal approach and fought for their permit in court. Many others, however, acquired criminal records after being caught in police checks and charged with committing an offense. Only very few judges refused to punish a person only because he or she had crossed invisible borders within Germany. Individual judges have questioned the legality of the regulation and have instituted proceedings in the Federal Constitutional Court.

The Federal Constitutional Court took up the issue of Residenzpflicht after the district court of Kirchhain/Hessen decided that a case they were trying possibly involved offenses against the basic law of the constitution. A verdict was reached in 1997. The German Supreme Court decided that neither the obligation to remain in one’s allocated district, nor the fact that a violation of this is punishable by law, contravenes the basic law of the constitution.

The change from individual protest into a political campaign can be traced back at the very latest to the Caravan Refugee Congress, which took place in Jena in the spring of 2000 under the motto, »Together against deportation and social ostracism«. Even in the run-up to the congress, it was clear how strong the interest of certain governmental offices was in not letting asylum seekers go to this political meeting. Cornelius Yufanyi, of the refugee organization, The Voice, and one of the congress organizers, estimated at the time that half of the asylum seekers who wanted to go to Jena were prevented from doing so. The Ministry of the Interior in Brandenburg had demanded of the »Ausländerbehörde« (immigration authorities) that they not issue travel permits. They claimed that »participation is not a matter of urgent public interest, nor does the rejection of permission constitute undue hardship.« Participation was denied to asylum seekers in other states as well. The refusal to grant permission was based on Residenzpflicht.

After the congress, refugees already engaged in the issue intensified their efforts to inform other asylum seekers and to organize themselves. Signatures were collected, petitions were started and demonstrations, like the one on October 3, 2000, in Hanover, were organized.

The refugee organizations have changed their strategy to one of civil disobedience, with the following demands: no one should have to beg for a permit; no one should have to pay even a penny’s fine. The trial against Cornelius Yufanyi contributed greatly to the campaign’s success in making Residenzpflicht a public issue. The asylum seeker from Cameroon had repeatedly refused to pay money for his freedom of movement. The plan was to take his case to the European Court and to have the German practice of Residenzpflicht tested in court, in the well-founded hope of causing its downfall there.

His lawyers, however, do not feel that Yufanyi’s case is suited to that purpose. In order to be taken to the European Court, a case has to have gone through the courts in lower jurisdictions. However, when refugees go to court over the administration’s refusal to grant them a travel permit, they are usually granted the permit. In this context, Michael Meier-Borst, the asylum rights expert of the Federal Commission for Foreigner Relations, pointed out that the bureaucracy’s implementation of the law is »unnecessarily restrictive«.

But even if refugees always have the possibility of legal recourse should their application for travel permits be refused, it is still true that this humiliating practice makes day-to-day life nerve-racking. The campaign therefore continues to call for less harassment and less expensive procedures, so that refugees can visit a friend in another town or participate in a political meeting. They should refuse to apply for travel permits and to pay fines. Refugees should go on the offensive and bring their violations of the law to public attention – for example by giving themselves up to the police voluntarily.

In the meantime, Cornelius Yufanyi has received mail from the district court of Worbis. The judge wants to abandon proceedings against him because of extenuating circumstances. In this case, he would have to pay for the costs of the trial himself. Yufanyi would have to agree to abandoning the case, but he refuses to, as his goal is not his own acquittal, but rather the abolition of Residenzpflicht. If the proceedings are continued, the asylum seeker from Cameroon could face a prison sentence of up to one year.

There are other refugees in addition to Cornelius Yufanyi who are prepared to take their protest against Residenzpflicht to court. On February 6, Sunny Omwenyke from Nigeria, one of the organizers of the refugee congress in Jena and an activist in »The Voice«, stood trial for having violated Residenzpflicht. He too refused to accept a penalty or fine for the right to freedom of movement. The same also applies to an asylum seeker from Cameroon who is currently living in Edewecht near Oldenburg.

Bringing the issue to public attention is not the only reason the people standing trial are going on the offensive. They also hope to encourage other refugees to defend themselves against this discriminatory law.

In addition to the trials’ success in gaining publicity for the issue, the campaign in Berlin, from May 17-19, also contributed to greater public awareness, even if resonance in the media was negligible. On this weekend, the attending refugees hadn’t asked for travel permits. Around 300 refugees met in Berlin in order to participate in a »nationwide campaign against Residenzpflicht«. 1000 supporters attended the demonstration on May 19, and were joined by a further 1,200 asylum seekers, who came by bus from cities all over Germany, including Suhl, München, Meiningen, Mühlhausen, Rathenow, Hamburg, Karlsruhe und Magdeburg. Most of the 1,200 came originally from African countries.

Many refugees saw their refusal to apply and pay for the »vacation permits« that would allow them to attend the campaign as »an act of civil disobedience«. They camped in tents (insofar as the police allowed this) on the Schlossplatz, a public square located in the center of Berlin, and drew attention to their situation with exhibitions and flyers.

On the first day of the campaign, a six-person delegation presented a »Memorandum on Refugees in Germany« to Annelie Buntenbach, a Member of Parliament for Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (the Green Party). The memorandum was signed by 250 organizations, including Pro Asyl and several refugee councils, and declared that »the German government cannot claim to fight racism while simultaneously allowing racist laws to fan of the flames of hate.«

The initiators of the campaign, The Voice and the Brandenburger Flüchtlingsinitiative, declared it a success. In spite of intimidation tactics used by the Ausländerbehörden (immigration authorities) before the campaign started and police repression, a great number of refugees succeeded in coming together at this meeting. (In Jena, among other places, a bus was stopped because the police wanted to have the names of the asylum seekers.) The organizers were, however, disappointed at the low level of media interest. According to Cornelius Yufanyi of The Voice, the permanent presence of the police (whose harassment tactics included body searches, attempted arrests, and a ban on sleeping on the public square) also created a threatening atmosphere and hindered discussion among the refugees.

He also criticized parts of the German antiracist movement, saying, »a lot of them wait for us, just because they don’t know what they can do themselves.« It’s necessary, he says, that those people who are not directly affected also develop their own positions on and forms of resistance to the issue of Residenzpflicht. Cornelius Yufanyi is afraid that the refugees’ ability to mobilize is overestimated. For them, it still requires enormous effort to resist intimidation attempts and to take on the risk of being caught violating Residenzpflicht.

Many activists are exhausted but definitely want to continue. The next moves are still being discussed, but most of the activists are certain that no further progress can be made with petitions and memorandums. »We won’t change anything if we don’t get more radical,« says one refugee. The Association against Residenzpflicht – made up of The Voice, the Brandenburger Flüchtlingsinitiative, the Berlin Antiracist Initiative, the Hamburg African Refugee Association, the Caravans and other initiatives and individuals – envisages another central campaign in Berlin for next year. Some activists would like to take the offensive further this year, in order to be taken more seriously and to be able to realize at least some of their smaller goals.

Becoming resigned is sometimes a great problem among politically engaged refugees, says one of the activists. He explains, »since we’ve begun, the situation has gotten worse and worse.« Aside from chronic money problems, the (potential) deportation of fellow activists makes life difficult for the refugee organizations. Some of them are assigned to other residences; some are taken into custody pending deportation; some have to go underground and become illegal. »We make one step forwards,« says a member of The Voice, »and the state pulls us 20 steps back.« Residenzpflicht is certainly not the only or the greatest problem, but in all campaigns, meetings and demonstrations, asylum seekers are severely hampered by the problem of movement restrictions and associated repression.

»If we abolish Residenzpflicht, then we can fight better against deportations,« says the activist of The Voice. Although they do not want to mobilize only refugees, the primary task for refugee organizations continues to be making contact with and establishing networks of asylum seekers, as well as visits to »Asylheime« (allocated refugee residences). It is their goal to develop as close a network of regional groups as possible. Decentralized activities related to the issue of Residenzpflicht take place in various cities and regions. And the Caravan for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants is supposed to tour through Germany again in 2002. Their activities will address, among other problems, that of Residenzpflicht.

No change in sight: plans to extend and not to abolish the law are in the pipeline
by Anke Schwarzer

Refugee resistance against Residenzpflicht leaves politicians cold. During negotiations of EU minimum standards regarding the admission of applicants for political asylum, the German Minister of the Interior, Otto Schily, strongly fought for Germany to be allowed to continue its restrictions on freedom of movement.

The plan, however, is not simply to retain Residenzpflicht as it currently stands, but to expand it to other refugee groups. In the spring of 2001, the German states of Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, governed by a coalition of the center Socialist and the Green parties, presented a bill to the Upper House of Parliament. This declared that people who illegally entered the country, but who cannot be deported and are therefore tolerated by the authorities (in German »geduldete AusländerInnen«, hereafter referred to as »tolerated foreigners«), cannot freely chose their place of residence. According to the bill, they should be assigned to states and local districts in accordance with quotas.

A federal distribution arrangement currently exists which apportions the refugees first between the states and afterwards assigns them to county or local districts. This arrangement and associated residency restrictions (»Wohnsitz- und Residenzpflichtauflage«) have, until now, only applied to applicants for political asylum. Tolerated foreigners (illegal immigrants who cannot be deported) are also subject to residency restrictions but these usually apply at the state level and not at the level of counties or smaller districts. Tolerated foreigners, like war refugees from Bosnia or Afghanistan, as opposed to applicants for political asylum, could until now choose the place in which they submit their application for toleration and thereby choose their place of residency within Germany. In practical terms, therefore, their residency restrictions did not effect daily life to the grave extent that the asylum seekers’ restrictions did.

If this bill is made into law, tolerated foreigners’ freedom of movement would be severely restricted. The bill envisages a nationwide distribution of tolerated foreigners in accordance with the ratio that is used for applicants for political asylum. The reason given for this planned regulation is that the financial burden carried by the states is unjust. »The urgent need for action stems from the monies that can be collected nationwide. Not passing distribution regulations may lead to noticeable redistribution of costs between the states.« The following statement was made in the official explanation for the new bill: »Like applicants for political asylum and (civil) war refugees, illegal immigrants do not have a right to live in a particular state or place.«

Georg Classen, of the Refugee Council in Berlin, points out that government offices in the past have tried to redistribute tolerated foreigners by illegally refusing to register them, to give them the official status of tolerated foreigner or to give them welfare benefits. In addition, he says, they were advised to initiate asylum proceedings, which are not allowed by law to war refugees.

The new law is not yet in force. Although the federal government fundamentally supports a »more just distribution of the costs« faced by states, it says that many of the points are not well worked-out and that these must first be clarified. Questions of technical implementation and financing are still open. The procedure for photographing and fingerprinting refugees for police records still has to be worked out, as does the issue of legal council and the handling of exceptional cases.

The political party, Grünen/Bündnis90 (The Green party), have no fundamental problems with the idea of supporting the new bill. According to the paper, »Änderungsbedarf aus grüner Sicht« (»Necessary changes, as seen from the Green perspective«), they would support it once the Minister of the Interior promised to renounce his previously publicly stated reservations about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition, the Greens suggest introducing various points intended the weaken the bill. They argue that »humanitarian hardships« should be considered, that a clearer definition of those affected be created, and that the former East German states should not have to bear additional costs. Rather than Residenzpflicht, they have an arrangement in mind that is comparable to the residential assignment laws that apply to the emigrants of German origin from Eastern European states. The need to get a permit in order to leave the district of the Ausländerbehörde (immigration authorities office) would thus be made superfluous.

The PDS rejects the initiative of Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia. »Instead of moving people around like figures on a chess board, the costs of accommodation and care could be balanced at the federal level,« says Ulla Jelpke, the Speaker for Domestic Affairs of the PDS parliamentary party. The PDS position is that Residenzpflicht should be abolished. In order to accomplish this, they have already introduced a bill that would repeal the measures in the Asylverfahrensgesetz (law regulating asylum procedures) that contain residency restrictions, especially the so-called »Landkreisregelung«, which imposes residency restrictions at the county level. The PDS, however, have never agreed with the principle of allowing refugees to choose their own place of residency. They state that »limitations on the geographical range of residency are not necessary to insure a fair distribution of costs. After they [the limitations] have been done away with, the regulations that determine how asylum seekers are assigned to their place of residency will continue to exist.«

Even if the law has not become an issue of great priority among most politicians, the public is now at least aware that such a discriminatory law exists in Germany. Just a year ago, many politicians did not know that refugees were subject to residency restrictions, or what these restrictions were. It is thanks to the Campaign against Residential Restriction Law, launched by the refugee organization, The Voice, in coordination with The Brandenburger Flüchtlingsinitiative and an association of various other initiatives, that this public awareness has been achieved.

Freedom of movement – an essential human right
It was under this motto that a competition and the exhibition, »Denk-Mal«, took place early this year in Freiburg. In their exhibited work, the participating artists dealt with the issue of Residenzpflicht. On January 27, 2001, an independent jury awarded the prize to the work of Bernhold Baumgartner, which the artist describes as follows:

The foundation consists of concrete mixed with uneven, rough stones. The base has an area of three by four meters and corresponds to the amount of living space, including traffic areas, provided by law for one refugee. The 4 1/2 square meters of the inner cube delineate the living space allowed for one person. There are metal bars in intervals of 20 cm that compose a labyrinth whose walls range from a height of 1.2 to three meters. The labyrinth symbolizes the arbitrary restrictions and limitations of asylum laws. At the entrance, one has a sense of the structure or order of the bars, but as one moves into the interior, the barriers become more and more confusing. It is impossible to escape surveillance and freedom of movement is restricted from all sides. Seen from a distance – from the perspective of the outsider – the perils and traps of the laws are hard to recognize. But the person who is imprisoned within them experiences confinement and hopelessness. Refugees in exile live without protection in a »house without a roof« and »without windows« …

The jury and organizers of the exhibition suggest that the memorial be erected near the Landratsamt (county government offices) of Freiburg. The Foreigners’ Advisory Council in Freiburg passed on this recommendation to the district council. The city, however, has refused to erect the monument, on the grounds that it cannot support any art that protests against laws currently in force.

A photograph of the prize-winning design can now be found on the web.

Original open call for artwork in PDF format and at