KU students who visited Germany to find out about migration and anti-Muslim sentiment got first hand experience earlier this month, after being caught up in a mass protest in Berlin.
An activist group of more than 50 Iranian migrants chanted in the streets of the German capital “No to the death penalty! No to stoning! No to religious fascism in Iran!”
The trip to Germany was organised by the KU sociology department after launching a new Migration and Social Transformation module. It is connected with an Erasmus Plus teaching exchange between Kingston and Leipzig University, where students from Germany plan to visit Kingston at the end of this month.
Beth Jasper, third year KU sociology student who attended the trip to Berlin, said: “There were police raid vans surrounding the protest, along with lots of tourists. In the middle of the Brandenburg square activists stood on a truck waving flags shouting as the surrounding crowd supported their demonstration.
“At first, we were slightly worried it was a protest against the Muslim community migrating in Germany. We had met a group of refugees prior, and they were such nice, peaceful people – but sadly such a hated minority.
“It soon became apparent from the posters and propaganda that they were in fact protesting about how Iranian migrants are being treated because of their religion – sometimes persecuted for their beliefs in Germany. All they were asking for was the governments help.”
Germany reportedly took around 1 million migrants and refugees last year, welcoming them with banners and hampers at the borders and train stations.
Since the Cologne sex attacks of new years eve, where more than a 100 women and girls came forward with reports of sexual assaults carried out by men ‘of North African or Arab origin’, anti-migration protests and the number of attacks on migrants in Germany have increased drastically.
The group of KU students also spoke to the German government commissioner for human rights policy who claimed Germany is facing the brunt of refugee migration.
Christoph Strässer, who shapes German policy regarding humanitarian aid, spoke to the group of ten sociology students at the Bundestag building in the Berlin.
Strässer told the students: “Refugee migration is an EU issue, not just a German one. Our country needs help; we cannot solely be responsible for helping all of the migrants.”
The MP also spoke to the students about pro social activity in society and how the migrants were successfully integrating in the area.
KU sociology lecturer David Herbet, who arranged and attended the trip to Berlin said: “We organised the trip because we wanted to give students from Kingston an insight into immigration and integration issues in Germany, and to give students in Leipzig an insight into those issues in the UK.
“As well as the talk with Christoph, we also visited a community organisation in Leipzig (Bürgerverein Gohlis) where we had a discussion on ‘Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim sentiment in Germany and the UK – How is the current situation and what can lead to a de-escalation?’, where we heard about local neighbourhood efforts to counter prejudice and promote community co-operation.
“I was very pleased with how the trip went: the Kingston students were fabulous, asking lots of questions and engaging enthusiastically and constructively with everyone we met, and I think they learnt a lot about how things work in Germany.”