A social worker working in an asylum centre in Hamburg has spoken out about the daily realities of her job, which includes death threats, sexual harassment, aggressive behaviour, forged documents, misogyny, verbal abuse and even physical assault. She has admitted to changing her dress and behaviour in order to stay safe from the migrants, 90 percent of whom she describes as “unpleasant”.
Having initially been fired up with enthusiasm for helping the “refugees,” she admits that she is seriously considering quitting, as are most of her colleagues, thanks to the daily litany of abuse they receive at the hands of ungrateful migrants.
“I applied for this job because it was exactly what I wanted to do,” she told German news channel N24. “When confirmation of the job arrived in my mailbox, I looked forward to starting like crazy; finally I could not only help in theory, but also really do something practical to help the refugees.
“I went in in high spirits on my first day at the initial reception centre.” Her job consists of assisting the 1,500 migrants staying in the centre with asylum applications and access to services such as medical health checks.
“Well, and then the first refugees came to my office… After the first few visits I realized that my very positive and idealistic notion of them and their behaviour was very different from the reality… Of course can’t generalize about all refugees under any circumstances, many of them are very friendly, very grateful, very willing to integrate, very happy here… But if I’m honest 90 percent of those who I meet are rather unpleasant.”
Describing the aggressive behaviour of the majority, she explained: “First, many of them are extremely demanding… They came to me and demanded that I immediately set them up with an apartment, a fancy car, and a really good job. When I told them this was not possible, they would become loud and very aggressive. An Afghan threatened to kill himself there and then [if I did not help him with these demands].
“One Arab yelled at a colleague of mine ‘We will behead you!’… Because of these and other things the police are with us several times a week.”
The migrants are also duplicitous, she said, often turning up with a number of false documents.
“They would come to me and tell a story which did not match their papers. I would check with my colleagues and then I would find out that just the day before, the refugees had been to them with a completely different story.
“There was, for example, a resident who came to me with a deportation notice addressed to himself. He wanted to know what would happen next. I explained it to him, and then he went away. Soon afterwards, he appeared in front of my colleague and showed completely new identity documents in a different name. He was then just moved to another camp.”
And they are unreliable, leading to problems within the system as part of the routine is setting medical appointments for the migrants to be screened.
“I make appointments for them, but they just do not show up. This happens so often that the doctors have now asked us not to book as many appointments – but what am I supposed to do? I can’t simply reject the request for an appointment, just because I suspect that the petitioner may not turn up.”
But the biggest problem by far, she says, is the migrants’ attitude towards women, which is so extreme that she has begun to modify her own behaviour in order not to draw unwanted attention.
“It is well known that it is primarily single men who come to us—at least 65 or 70 percent. They are still young, only 20 or so, and not more than 25.
“They simply do not respect women at all. They don’t take us seriously. If I as a woman tell them something or want to take a statement from them, they hardly listen to me at all, or they simply refuse and demand to speak to a male colleague.”
Instead they give her and her female colleagues “contemptuous glances”, or are sexually provocative: one will whistling and make comments in their native language while the others look on and laugh.
“It is really very unpleasant,” she says. “They even photograph us with their smartphones, just like that, without asking, even if you protest against it.”
At first she tried simply ignoring the behaviour, but more recently it has become even more aggressive and intimidating “because in recent weeks there are more and more men from North Africa, from Morocco, Tunisia, or Libya.
They are even more aggressive. I could not ignore it any longer, and I have had to respond,” she continued.
“Specifically, this meant I had to start dressing differently. I’m actually someone who likes to sometimes wear close-fitting items, but not anymore. I now have to wear loose-fitting pants and always high-necked tops. I hardly use any makeup anymore.
“And not only did I have to change my outward appearance to protect myself from this harassment, I also had to alter my behaviour.
“I avoid, for example, going where lots of these single men are staying. If I have to do anything there, I try to get it over and done with as quickly as possible without smiling at anyone so they can’t mistake my intentions.
“But usually I stay in my little office, if possible. And I no longer take the train to work or back, because a colleague was followed by some of the men to the metro station and molested in the train. I would like to spare myself that, and therefore I use my car.”
Clearly ashamed by her changing attitudes towards the migrants, she says: I know this all sounds awful, and I find it terrible myself that I’m doing this, but what can I do?
“The officials are no great help, either with this problem or others that we face – not the Interior Ministry nor the local Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. If you call them they no longer answer the phone.
“I had always ruled out quitting – I like my colleagues very much, and the refugee children. I was previously so convinced of the job and of the whole thing in itself, and it is very difficult to admit that it is all so different from what you have imagined.
“A resignation will be precisely such an admission. But we cannot take it anymore; we cannot bear to see how wrong it all is in here, and, if I’m honest, we cannot change it.”