Coffe to stay: self-organized open space for refugees

About six months ago „Coffee to Stay“ started as a regular monthly event on every second sunday at Hinterhof - Linkes Zentrum.

1. What is the history of this event and what is the purpose behind its idea?

Last winter some folks around „alles.anders.“ (new anti-authoritarian group in Düsseldorf) thought, that Linkes Zentrum Hinterhof with all its groups, people and possibilities has to be an open space for refugees in Düsseldorf as well.
Additionally to the misanthropic experiences at the european border, refugees in Germany are, even after their arrival, separated from society and within their own communities. An open space to get to know each other, to connect, to build networks and to support each other had to be created. This includes the possibility of developing political stances and activities.
The barriers separating us reach from the conditions of housing (different refugee camps or homes), over a variety of working conditions and security-statuses (dependence on public welfare, private contacts, forced labour, and insecure residence permits) adding to the known hierarchies within issues like race, class, gender, education etc.
This should verify that the exchange in our different concepts of reality and daily struggles is necessary to find a common ground in the social struggles to come. We call on likeminded people to reach out in this time of need to share their infrastructure and social standing to create a more equitable society.
  This space should be as open as possible and created together. New people are still coming to visit our café and we built a common group of refugees and non-refugees who organize and sustain the café and the outcome of the processes there.

2. How does this cafe work?

CTS is every 2nd sunday. We usually open at two pm and you will always find somebody who is preparing something to eat with lots of love and knowledge. We have a donation box for the food so everyone can eat there. You can play some board games and talk with people. Most sundays we try to have a general assembly to speak about general and special issues with everybody attending the cafe, we prepare for a special event or discuss about problematics refugees have to deal with in Düsseldorf. CTS can not solve every problem but it can be a place where a movement against this problems could start.
We are a constantly connected group of about 10-15 people, sometimes there are just 10 of us and on other days we are more than thirty people. We also stay in contact and share information via mail, social media or our whatsapp group about our upcoming meetings and topics we want to talk about.

3. What is offered for guests and what do I have to expect when I come?

You can expect to meet many friendly people and you will definitely have nice and interesting conversations.We usually cook and eat together wonderful (vegan and vegetarian) arabic food. We also discuss different issues concerning us as a whole and generally what is going on in Düsseldorf. For now the main languages spoken at the café are Arabic, German and English. Moreover we share our different views and experiences about life and society. CTS is definitely a place to make new friends, have interesting conversations and a possibility to have political exchange in a (grassroots) selforganized way to try to overcome hierarchies and power, which are oppressing people. „This is (y)our place“ - that‘s our slogan and we want people to be able to take part of every process in CTS. This is also reflected in the way these interview questions were answered, they attempt to cover most perspectives from the people attending the cafe, but not everyone participated in it, so we probably left out some things that were important to others.
The group, that is organizing this event, consists of different people: some with and some without the experience of migration and life as a „refugee“, different languages, different living conditions and outlooks on life ...

4. How do you deal with that? What do you learn about working in this group? What is positive, what is negative?

It‘s always nice to meet new people. But it gets difficult if the language barrier that exists on both sides becomes a hindrance for fluid conversation. We have to find ways to deal with it.
There are few people that come to the café because they are hoping to find help with solving their individual and personal problems. Of course these problems have to be solved and in CTS you will find someone who is willing to help but most of the time we aren‘t exactly qualified to help with the intricacies of German bureaucracy.
Our main goal is to support the empowerment-process of the people to raise their voice, to claim their rights and to fight for improvements. What we learned is that many people feel too weak or too afraid to become active so we have to continue building up more self-confidence and hope.
We also broadened our view of life and every meeting we learn more about different living situations and conditions in Düsseldorf. 

5. Your plans and ideas for the future?

We are still working on CTS and the possible aims that we want to achieve in the future and thinking about the different possibilities. We always try to reach more and more people and find our way to push things forward. A main thing at the moment is to build a reliable structure to work together on an eye-to-eye-level. Further ideas, such as building a „council of refugees” from nearly all camps in Düsseldorf are in discussion. 

6. In the end ... would you like to say something more to all the readers out there?

It‘s important to keep in mind that there are still so many people who are forced to flee away from war, political or sexual prosecution, violence, oppression, horrible life-conditions or natural catastrophes. And that we have to work together to improve the living conditions of people who need support in whole europe (and worldwide). We all are responsible and we all should demand that our human rights should be respected. That’s why it is so important to build groups and spaces such as Coffee to Stay, Welcome 2 Düsseldorf (in V6) or Cafe Refugees Welcome (in Zakk) to support the empowerment of refugees. It is also very important to get in contact with people who have experiences with migration to understand their different struggles and how important it is to become active against the horrible living conditions, the very slow and often totally missing help from Europe. Also we should ask ourselves the question in which society we want to live and what we are willing to accept, if we aren‘t trying to change this and the reasons for these conditions ...
Solidarity is possible!

Next date: September 11th from 2 pm to 6 pm

Hinweise zum Interview:

Wir führten das Interview teilweise online, teilweise in Kleingruppengesprächen durch. Zuerst schrieben wir in englisch, dann versuchten wir as good as possible ins Deutsche zu übersetzen ;)

THANX for the interview!

CoffeeToStay / August 2016