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Deportation of asylum seekers: "The early morning hours are the most dangerous"


The activist Hagen Kopp wants to protect asylum seekers from deportation - and is therefore now on trial again. In the interview he criticizes the German practice and talks about his process.

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Activist Hagen Kopp: »The process should intimidate me«

Photo: Milos Djuric / DER SPIEGEL


Mr. Kopp, you will be appealed against at the Aschaffenburg Regional Court on May 6th.

The public prosecutor's office accuses you of “public incitement to criminal offenses”.

What's going on there?


There is a website on which my name is in the imprint, it's called

There is a call there with the sentence: "That is why I call for people threatened with deportation to be granted citizen asylum and, if necessary, to hide them in their homes".

To person

Hagen Kopp, 60 years old, works part-time as a warehouse clerk.

He has been committed to helping refugees and migrants since the early 1990s.

He is one of the co-founders of the network »nobody is illegal«.

Since 2014, together with fellow campaigners, he has been offering a transnational hotline that people in distress can call around the clock.

Citizens' asylum has existed since 2016. Kopp lives in southern Germany.


What is citizen asylum about?


We want to give people protection, i.e. hide them when they are threatened with deportation.

I was a co-founder of the Hanau Citizens' Asylum, the first of 16 local initiatives.

We founded at the end of 2016 in response to deportations to the war zone in Afghanistan.

On our joint website there is an appeal that people can sign and that contains the sentence that my procedure is about - so the first-person form does not even mean Hagen Kopp, it can refer to anyone.


You were acquitted in the district court last year and the public prosecutor appealed.


The judge justified my acquittal in the first instance in such a way that “people threatened with deportation” can also mean those with a tolerance.

They can be deported under certain circumstances, but they are legal in Germany.

Therefore, it cannot be a criminal offense to give them shelter or to encourage them to do so.

The public prosecutor's office asserts in the statement of appeal that people who are "with a tolerance in the Federal Republic cannot be deported at all."

But that happens all the time in this country.

The process is meant to intimidate me.

But I am not afraid.

"The fear of being woken up at four at night"


If you hide someone who is staying in Germany without a right of residence and is supposed to be deported, that is aiding and abetting illegal residence and possibly a criminal offense.

Why are you doing that?


Because for 30 years I've seen people get scared and often don't know how to sleep.

There was an earlier initiative in Hanau where we asked Kurds threatened with deportation what we should call the project.

Her idea was: "For a good night's sleep".

At first we paused - it was about her fear of being woken up at four o'clock at night and being taken to the airport with children and luggage.


Abbess Mechthild Thürmer from Bavaria will soon be on trial for granting refugees church asylum.


What is interesting: A Bavarian monk, Brother Abraham Sauer from Münsterschwarzbach, has just been acquitted in a comparable case.

The court emphasized his freedom of belief and conscience and the fact that no third party was harmed - perhaps a landmark judgment.

Incidentally, I spoke briefly to Mother Mechthild on the phone recently, she said that she would pray for me on the day of my trial.

That touched me.

"People need shelter."


How many people are there trying to prevent deportations in this way?


In addition to church asylums, there are certainly a few hundred in all of Germany - it's not just about rooms, but also about health care, advice and sometimes, if there is no other option, moving on to another country.

But we're only the tip of the iceberg.

Most of this work is organized by the migrant communities themselves, friends, relatives and acquaintances who support and protect one another.


Do people have the prospect of staying in Germany even though they are actually supposed to be deported?


For most of them, the goal is secure residence status.

Let us take as an example people with a Duldung, at whom we look together: Is it possible to switch to an employment Duldung?

Among other things, there must be an employment contract for this.

And we will see whether the deportation can be legally stopped.

This can drag on for months, during which time you can be deported at any time.

That is why people need shelters.


Have you ever put someone with you yourself?


Yes, several times.

Some people were so intimidated that they just wanted to stay indoors.

Then there were those who said I know the risk and go out anyway.

And some even worked during the day and only came to me to sleep.

The night and early morning hours are the most dangerous.

more on the subject

Separate refugee families: German asylum policy is hostile to childrenA comment by Katrin Elger


In recent years, shackles have been used more and more during deportations, according to the Federal Government's responses to minor inquiries from politicians from the Left Party in the Bundestag in 2019 and 2020.

Does that coincide with what those affected describe to you?


Yes, we keep hearing about violence against them.

Refugees who have not committed anything can also be arrested and then deported.

In addition, the deportations are more invisible, there is a so-called charterization: fliers with their own personnel provided especially for deportation, sometimes three times as many police as those to be deported.

If one of those affected struggles, there is no public.

"The numbers remain high and the taboos are being broken."


The number of deportations fell last year.

Since 2015 there have been between 20,000 and 25,000 annually, last year it was 10,800.

Is that a good sign for you?


No, because all air traffic was very restricted due to Corona. The numbers remain high and the breaking of taboos is increasing. Example: A few weeks ago there was the first charter collective deportation of Tamils ​​to Sri Lanka. A few years ago, there were mass murders of their population in the country and they are still being persecuted. Or the deportation of a Somali from Hesse: he had been in Germany for almost eight years, with a permanent job for three years. He was simply arrested, imprisoned and deported to a civil war country. In a few months he could have received a leave of absence, a first step towards a safe stay.


What do you think of the argument of some critics that Germany cannot accept everyone who has limited spatial and financial resources?


I doubt that all people want to come.

For the others it is like this: If the reasons for fleeing such as war, climate change and the massive north-south income gap persist, people will continue to leave their country.

For me, migration is a human right.

I would reverse Horst Seehofer's saying “Migration is the mother of all problems”: Migration is the mother of all societies.

It has always been that way in history.

To exclude people who are looking for a better life for themselves and their families is a racist injustice for me, I will never come to terms with that.

Source: spiegel

All life articles on 2021-05-06

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