Hypocritical migration politics in Germany: Making racist discrimination visible – again!

It was the summer of 2015, and I had to apply for a Canadian tourist visa to attend the annual conference of my doctoral colloquium hosted in Toronto. After a short research, I found out that the nearest Canadian embassy for visa applications to Berlin was in Vienna. A personal application was not required. So, I went to the colloquium secretary and asked for an extra budget for sending my passport to Vienna with insurance. They were confused. They didn’t understand why I didn’t want to travel to apply in person. My answer was clear: “I have a passport from the Republic of Turkey. The European borders are open. Thousands of people have been walking from the Middle East, crossing over Turkey, Hungary, and Vienna. Some of them are trying to reach their families here in Germany. They have been constantly attacked and beaten by the local forces. I can go to Vienna, but I can’t come back to Berlin without my German residence permit, and it’s just a sticker on my passport.”

If you have the White European privileges given by birth, you can easily avoid any social causes against human rights until someone pulls your head up and turns it over to the point. It is what happened after the war started in Ukrania. Media coverage was all about how Germany was threatened by the war, especially Russian nuclear weapons, and how badly Germany’s military budget was low in developing a protection shield against atomic attacks. The war maps have been constantly updated with alarming: “The war is x km away from Germany!” For a society that is still suffering from WWII, it’s traumatizing. A war in faraway geographies is “bad,” but a war in Europe is frightening. Thousands of people arriving in Germany seeking a refugee shelter should be “regulated,” but the Ukrainian refugees are more than welcome. Hence, the difference between the current migration politics toward non-European and Ukrainian refugees in Germany is noticeable today.


This photo, taken in Berlin at Tempelhof SBahn Station on May 11th, 2022, displays the blatant racist discrimination against diverse refugee communities in Germany. In rough translation, it says, “Join the employer Land Berlin now and offer services for refugees from Ukraine.” #facepalm

Many people who have fled war and destruction from Ukraine are seeking protection and a safe place to stay in Berlin. Often, the people, including many children and young people, lack the most basic necessities upon their arrival, such as shelter, medical care or financial support. Language barriers also make it difficult for refugees to arrive in our city and to organize further assistance. In this situation, the employees of the State of Berlin stand by the side of the refugees from Ukraine with energetic and professional support and are the first point of contact for the granting of state benefits.

You too can play a valuable role for the common good and contribute your expertise and commitment to the care of the refugees from Ukraine: The state of Berlin offers numerous entry-level opportunities to work in administrative services, for social workers, doctors, interpreters and other professional groups – together we can make arrivals possible!

HAUPTSTADT MACHEN – Das Berliner Karriereportal (Making Capital City – Carrier portal of Berlin)

The official website of Berlin, which was quoted above, highlights the call as follows: “Enabling Arrivals Together” (Gemeinsam Ankommen ermöglichen). It’s great, let’s do it! But why are you only calling out the Ukrainian refugees’ struggles? Why are we only talking about the war in Ukrania but not the Middle East or Africa? Why are we only talking about the participation of the refugees escaping from the war in Ukrania? At the same time, it is very well known that there are zillions of different reasons to apply for refugee status in Germany? For instance, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why are we not talking about sufficient protection and participation of all those subject to gender-based violence both in their home countries and on the migration road, as well as in Germany?

The Berlin government’s call to employers to hire more Ukrainian refugees to benefit from certain financial privileges undoubtedly facilitates racist discrimination in the job market. It has already been very well known that non-german, non-European and non-western names are discriminated against in job applications. They have a “legal reason” for being a racist now; they are just following their state’s migration policy. #ThanksButNo

Photo by Fred Rivett on Unsplash

Last year I had a chance to meet a group of refugee women who arrived in Germany from the Middle East by walking for three weeks long. It was a book-reading event. The book was published following a writing workshop conducted with refugee women from various geographies. They wrote poems. They were emotional and striking poems. Voices were shaking and tears were dropping… After the reading session, we talked about our migration experiences. These women had no chance given to learn german properly. Their diplomas were not recognized in Germany; hence, they were forced to work in low-paid and precarious jobs – a.k.a in no german required jobs. If the German authorities qualified their certificates, they would have been given free german courses to a certain level. Some women, especially young girls who had not yet completed their education in their hometown before the war started, may not be able to present any certificates. In that case, they are asked to go to their state embassies in Germany to collect their missing documents. #ThanksForRetraumatising

Therefore, the first photo above clearly presents the hypocritical migration policies in Germany. In the summer of 2015, the media coverage was all about the number of newcomers. “How long will the borders stay open?” was a hidden way of asking, “How many refugees will we host?” The German government back then assured the public that they had control. They had – a.k.a. the EU-Turkey deal. “The ‘EU-Turkey deal’ is the term often used to describe the ‘statement of cooperation’ between EU states and the Turkish Government, which was signed in March 2016.” According to the EU-Refugee Pact, Turkey would take any measures necessary to stop people traveling irregularly from Turkey to the EU in exchange for a €6 billion EU budget to improve the humanitarian situation refugees face in the country. #WellThoughtThanks In real life, thousands of families fell apart. Even though they had migrant and refugee rights to apply for family reunification in Germany, Turkey is perceived as a safe country, and applications are not validated. Seriously? Still? Even after the government in Turkey decided to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention and while racism is in daily country life constantly increasing? It’s not a question to Turkey but to the EU-states – it’s a question that EU-states should answer, especially, concerning those suffering under the unhumanitarian conditions in Greece?

Since Turkey has not been accepting returns for the past two years, people deemed ‘inadmissible’ have been stuck in Greece in a legal limbo: they have no access to asylum or documents indicating their legal status, and no right to housing, cash assistance, work, or catering services in the camps they reside in


What does it all mean to museology? The racism and gender-based violence in the german migration politics against marginalized communities should also be made visible in arts and culture – not only in Germany but Europewide. It could be achieved via exhibitions, events, publications, and collaborations. Additionally, the migrant and refugee artists, curators, and museum professionals should be mainly supported by offering specific job and residency vacancies. More importantly, the present should be documented. The current conditions, experiences, and stories of migrants and refugees, especially those identified with marginalized communities, should be collected and enriched with still and moving-image materials. Arts and culture institutions can usually not present sufficient resources for the field study, such as for interviewing people. Still, various NGOs have direct contact with the people concerned. Volunteers (supported with symbolic honorarium) could be engaged to work with NGOs to collect first-hand data for the examination of museum professionals. In the face of forced migration, it’s also crucial not to avoid injustice in migration and gender politics of arts and culture industries. #DecolonizeMuseums Therefore, developing particular migration and gender policies in archives, museums, and art market is not a luxury but a requirement.

cover photo: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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