"I could be deported any moment and be sent back to Sudan. But I am an activist and will not give up." Napuli Paul Langa
“There are Neonazi’s that sometimes come around and threaten us." Napuli Paul Langa
In the middle of a big group of mainly African men, one young woman stands out. When she speaks, the others listen respectfully. She talks about basic human rights and points at the miserable tents surrounding the group. Meet Napuli, a Sudanse woman who lives in a tent on Oranienplatz in Berlin. Napuli Paul Langa is a refugee and lives in Berlin illegally.
“Yes, I could be deported any moment and be sent back to Sudan. But I am an activist and will not give up,” she says firmly. Napuli’s hair is braided, her eyes demand respect. “When they send me back, the Sudanese government will kill me. They just make sure I will get an accident or something and blame it on the traffic.”
Since October last year, about 150 people – mostly Africans – live in the makeshift tents on Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg. They survived the cold winter (a few times tents collapsed under the weight of the snow) and regularly organize demonstrations to call for the German government to stop – what they call – the forced deportations and abolish the strict asylum laws. But nothing has changed so far.
Back in Sudan Napuli was already fighting for human rights. “I had an organization called ‘Sudanese Activists for Non Violence and Human Rights’, teaching refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia how to handle living in Sudan and how they might go back to their own countries. I am a refugee myself now. I know even better now what they must have felt.”
Asked about what made her flee to Germany, she says she doesn’t want to go into details. There was a dispute, which put Napuli in mortal danger. Europe-bound, she travelled through the Sahara from Sudan to Libya, making her way to safer Europe. “I don’t want to tell details, it was a horrible period in my life.” For the first time, the fire in her eyes loses its focus and she just stares blankly at the tents that make up her life now.
The young woman arrived in Germany in July 2012 and was transferred to a refugee base in Hannover. But the moment she arrived, she decided to leave. “It was horrible there, with six people in one room who didn’t speak each other’s languages. Because of the laws, we were not allowed to go out of the compound. If you leave, you don’t get your food ration. We were actually prisoners there.”
So when she heard about a protest march organized to demonstrate against the strict German asylum laws, she didn’t have to think long. “I jumped on this bus and joined the movement. I was the only woman, I still am the only woman in this camp. In our cultures women are not supposed to do this kind of stuff. But I am an activist and I refuse to comply to such a terrible asylum system.”
Berliners living around Oranienplatz have shown more compassion than the German government. “They hang banners outside their windows in solidarity with us, they give us food and clothes. I can sometimes even take a shower in their places. They have been so great. Sometimes they accompany us in the protest marches we organize. And the mayor of Berlin as well, he gave us this square for our tents.”
Other Berliners however, have been a real threat to the refugees. “There are these Neonazi’s that sometimes come around and threaten us. They want us out of their country. They have beaten up a friend of mine. It is dangerous for people with my skin colour to go out on the streets at night because of these Neonazi’s.”
Napuli tries to stay calm in these situations – something she is teaching the other refugees to do as well. She gives seminars on how to communicate with each other and how to organize themselves so their protests are more efficient.
As they are all illegal, wandering down the street and encountering police could mean being taking to prison and – even worse: a one way ticket back to Sudan. In Napuli’s case, having to go back to Sudan could mean her death. “I am not scared of that. If I have to go back, I will die an activist. But I don’t want to go back, I want to stay in Berlin and fight for the rights of asylum seekers.”
And in case she ends up in a German prison? Napuli grins. “Being in prison would actually be nicer than liver here. I would have something to eat, I could make phone calls, and I would even have a shower!”