Don’t judge us, asylum seekers plead with German hosts

‘My message to the Germans is: Don’t suspect everybody, don’t generalise’

Refugees in Berlin pleaded with their host nation to avoid placing migrants under a blanket of suspicion after police commandos raided their shelter, which had been home to a man arrested over Monday night's truck attack on a crowded Christmas market.

"We are of course worried," said Ibrahim Sufi (26), a Syrian living in Hangar 7 at the former Tempelhof airport, an imposing structure built by Adolf Hitler to showcase Nazi might and now being used to house migrants.

“We are worried about how the German public will view us after this terrorist attack,” added Sufi, tucking his hands into his red jacket to keep warm on a freezing morning. “My message to the Germans is: ‘Don’t suspect everybody, don’t generalise’.”

Accosted by journalists

Refugees were accosted by dozens of journalists looking for information about Monday night’s police operation, carried out after the attack that killed 12 people.


Some of the residents kept their eyes to the ground as they left the huge hangars and sped away to language lessons, waving their arms to fend off reporters.

“We woke up to shouts in German around 3.30 in the morning,” said Afghan refugee Safihullah (21), who lives in Hangar 6, which was raided by police.

“We had no idea what was happening. Security guards told us to stay in. Later they told us there had been a police raid. They said nothing else,” added Safihullah, speaking in German.

Ali Muhammed, a Syrian who stayed at Hangar 5, said he had slept at a nearby metro station because there had been too much noise at the shelter overnight. “There are many problems here,” he said, including “fighting over food and drink”.

Mohammed Jankhan (23), from Afghanistan, said he recognised the man police initially identified as the prime suspect when he was shown a photograph by the press.

Jankhan said had seen the man at Tempelhof over the last three months, that he spoke Farsi and kept himself to himself. “He was a normal guy.”

Views hardened

The influx of more than one million migrants into Germany this year and last, mainly Muslims fleeing countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, has hardened public views on immigration and weakened support for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

It has also fuelled xenophobia. Authorities in Berlin say they recorded 59 attacks on refugee shelters in the city last year and 48 so far this year.

"We have nothing to do with this crime," said Ammar Wazzaz, a 45-year-old refugee from the Syrian city of Idlib.

“I hope that what this person did won’t tarnish the reputation of refugees like us, who are very grateful to Germany.”

Yaser, a 32-year-old refugee from Syria, said he became dejected when he read about the attack on Facebook. "We fled this kind of terrorism and it is following us here," he said, adjusting a black beanie on his head.

Guardian service/ Reuters