In October, we talked about our experience regarding how to welcome and what we did since Heumensoord in terms of mutual aid and solidarity.
The event was organized by the research initiative GLOCAL.
They wrote an interesting review on their blog. There, they aim to understand local problems by looking also at the global processes behind them.
The following is the article as taken from here. A review of what we talked about and a valuable reflection on hospitality and borders.
On the 13th of October, a very diverse audience filled the Global Lounge at the Radboud University for an event on ‘Refugees and cross-border hospitality’. About fifty people from at least 10 different nationalities sat in a small room and reflected on a very intense period for the Dutch-German cross-border region between Nijmegen and Kranenburg: thousands of asylum seekers and migrants arrived in this region between September 2015 until today. Whilst the refugee camp on the Dutch side of the border, in Heumensoord, was shut down, a new one was opened in Kranenburg – only 12 km away on the other side of the border. The GLOCAL Hotspot hosted this event to challenge the public (and particularly the academics in their ivory tower) to reflect on possibilities for cross-border cooperation and (informal) forms of hospitality. The discussion, mediated by our resident GLOCAL PhD researcher Kolar Aparna and Huda Degu from ‘Asylum University’, was triggered by the experience of one refugee who shared his story of living on both sides of the border. He shared with us his struggles to gain a legal status and his encounters with Dutch and German police – an odyssey that took him to at least 8 different examination, detention and resettlement locations before he could finally settle down with his family.
Such disconcerting stories are a matter of everyday work for Dieter, case manager at COA in Arnhem providing assistance to refugees with regard to their asylum procedures. There are a lot of different rules, institutions and organizations involved in the asylum-seeking procedures, and each European country applies what should be homogeneous rules at their own discretion. This discrepancy between rules and practices leaves the implementation of refugees laws and rights to national governments, which can be subject to the whims of local sentiment. The schedules and procedures of bureaucratic structures by definition cannot respond to the peculiar perceptions of individual refugees – that is where Just People steps in with human-to-human responses tailor-made to refugees’ needs in Heumensoord (and in Nijmegen after the camp closed). Laura Heinig, a volunteer involved with the organization, explained that it was born out of the spontaneous gathering of people from Nijmegen who wanted to facilitate the hospitable welcoming of refugees in Heumensoord. Ingmar, another volunteer, adds that their intention was to overcome the failures and gaps left by understaffed institutions. A similar initiative was taken on the other side of the border, where German civilians gathered in a ‘round table’ – Runder Tisch – to support refugees in Kranenburg. One of their representatives, Friedhelm Kahm, explained their initiatives to give language courses and offer other facilities, such as a bicycle workshop, an internet café, and movies and games nights – all established in close cooperation with local authorities.
Besides the heartwarming stories of hospitality and the civilians’ initiatives to support refugees, what struck me the most was the common feeling that we were all agreeing on one point: hospitality for refugees boils down to humans helping humans with their problems. With different means (donations, voluntarism, social media), similar organizations on both sides of the border recognized the necessity of making that extra step which official institutions cannot make: warm hospitality and space for human empathy. What is more, people living at the Dutch-German border saw migrants arriving at their doorstep and were forced to reflect on the value of hospitality, but also on the much-debated issue of borders. People that for whatever reason cross national borders, challenge the nature of borders themselves, showing their permeability and cruel uselessness.