Asylum seekers in 500 km protest march across Germany

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 05, 2012 1:31 PM
Asylum seekers in 500 km protest march across Germany

BERLIN (Reuters) - Dozens of asylum seekers have defied an order restricting their freedom of movement and marched 500 km through Germany to protest against what they say is inhumane treatment by the authorities.

The marchers, from Africa, Asia and Latin America, danced across Berlin's city limits on Friday carrying signs calling for better living conditions and an end to deportations.

"How long we stay in Berlin depends on how long it takes for our demands to be met," said Ashkan Khorasani, a 23-year-old who fled Iran two years ago to escape political persecution.

Khorasani, whose own application for political asylum was recently approved, said protesters had slept in tents or stayed with sympathizers along their journey, which began in Wuerzburg in northern Bavaria and led them through eastern Germany.

A bus also set off from Wuerzburg and picked up other asylum seekers based in refugee camps in western Germany before heading for Berlin, Khorasani said.

A refugee from Benin named Salaman told Reuters he was participating in the march to protest against injustices he had endured in the camps. "The situation in the camps makes people sick. We are young and talented people, but we are excluded from society - we have no prospects in life."

Germany provides support for 130,000 refugees. In July, its Constitutional Court told lawmakers to modernize archaic rules dictating how much money asylum seekers should receive, noting the amount had not changed in 19 years and was still denominated in defunct German marks.

The government has not made the required changes.

Around 150 supporters accompanied the 50-odd refugees, Khorasani said. The march started on September 18.

(Reporting by Chris Cottrell and Thomas Peter; Writing by Chris Cottrell; Editing by Dan Lalor)