The Refugee Business

New container housing for refugees. Tempelhof, March 2017.

Refugees have always been big business. Whether you’re a smuggler or a humanitarian aid worker, the amount of help they need is immense. These aren’t just passengers transiting between airports. Refugees are states or remnants thereof, which imploded.

Few regions of the world have come to objectify refugees more than Europe. Whether you’re on the left or the right is immaterial. Refugees touch upon the most painful moments in European history, reaching back to the First World War. Some are even old enough to still remember the second.

That there would be profound mistrust surrounding the handling of refugees is a given. No country is fully prepared to take on another, let alone the half dozen or so, whose former inhabitants began descending on Germany in the summer of 2015. Particularly one with so many complex issues with outsiders.

One of the distinguishing features of German Willkommenskultur is its mix of humanitarianism and economics.  Germany knows too well the trauma of refugee crises, given the ones it both triggered during WWII. But it also remembers how much it was dependent on hundreds of thousands of legal migrants, to rebuild the country afterwards.

Muslim Turks, in particular, whom, to the not so distinguishing eye are not that much different from the million-plus Arabs and Afghans now calling Germany their home. The following flyer translations speak to that conundrum, attacking the country’s two main leftwing parties for seeking to profit from the refugee crisis.

Focused on refugee housing being put in place at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, the flyers have an air of hysteria about them, which testifies both to the historical significance of the site, and what it stands for today, to a perpetually impoverished city still seeking ways to rebuild itself seventy-one years after the Second World War.

Anti-refugee housing flyers. Outside Tempelhof, April 2017.

16 Million for 2 years?

Aid to refugees or preparation for future building development?

1st box: This is where the senate plans to build a temporary container camp for 1,100 refugees worth 16 Million Euros, restricted in time until 2019

2nd box: In January 2016, the senate of SPD/CDU amended the ThF Act (Tempelhofer Feld) for the areas outlined in red

What are the senate’s plans for the Tempelhofer Feld?

– Is it really about helping refugees?

– Or is the SPD trying to obtain a building permit by the backdoor?

– Who is responsible for the building project? SPD? The Left Party?

– What justifies the disproportionate expenses?

– 16 Million Euros to prepare and set up the containers, plus a yet unclear amount of reinstatement costs

– How does the senate plan to guarantee the dismantling of the camp?

We call for an immediate suspension of the building work!



16 Million for 2 years???

The old senate amended the ThF Act to obtain a building permission on the Tempelhofer Feld. This senate has been replaced, but still, the construction works are supposed to continue. What’s happening here?

Is this really about helping refugees? Or is someone trying to create facts on the ground for further building development?

Let’s ask the senate!

Monday, 27 March, 7 pm

Heimathafen Neukölln

Karl-Marx-Str. 141 / Subway station: Karl-Marx-Straße

Further information at

Scribbled across both flyers: Who betrayed us?

(Translator’s note: A well-known German rhyme/saying asks ”Wer hat uns verraten? Sozialdemokraten” – Who betrayed us? Social Democrats!)

Translated from the German by JZE. Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit.