Amnesty International University Group Erlangen visits refugee camp in Zirndorf

Zirndorf is a specific refugee camp; it is the refugees‘ first point of contact after their arrival in Germany. Here they wait up to three months to get transferred to a different and more permanent accomodation in Germany. At the moment, the camp in Zirndorf is housing approximately 600 people from around 30 different countries like Iraq, Serbia, Kosovo, Russia, Iran, Armenia. We took a trip to this camp on April 19th 2015.

Mr. Bartsch, a volunteer from the AWO asylum group in Zirndorf, gave a good picture of the people’s life at the camp. He also provided us with some background information on Zirndorf’s refugee camp.

He started his tour by showing us the offices, explaining that at first, the refugees have to register, followed up by some medical check-ups. This turns out to be rather complicated due to the lack of professional translators. Instead either one of the six security guards or a fellow native helps out if possible.

Afterwards, the refugees get assigned to a room, they move into different types of accommodations depending on their personal status. Thus single men and women are located on different floors in rooms with five to eight people. Families, on the other hand, get their own room in another building.

Regarding the food, the refugees have the opportunity to either get it from the cafeteria or to cook for themselves. It is worth mentioning that the cafeteria does not take into consideration the specific religious and health requirements that some people would need. There are also obstacles regarding the people cooking for themselves, since they do not get their first “pocket money” (140€) until after one month.

The Zirndorf refugee camp turned out to be full of contrasts. On the one side, we find an appealing Kindergarten and a little school (a former Catholic chapel), in which children of all ages can play, learn German and participate in some leisure activities organized by volunteer workers. On the other side, we can see a garage filled with bunk beds on which refugees had to sleep when too many were arriving at the same time. An example of that is last fall, where Zirndorf had to take in almost 1000 people instead of the normal amount of 600-700.
At the end, while enjoying coffee and pretzels, we had the chance to talk a bit more to Mr. Bartsch before we left.

Our trip to Zirndorf was truly informative. It became obvious that many people really welcome the refugees with open arms and try to help them through their difficult times. It was also really obvious that there is a lot more that needs to be done. We are now even more motivated to promote Human Rights for refugees.

By the way: If you want to take action against the restrictive refugee policy of the european union, you can do it here:

Katharina Jahn