BEFORE THE LAW:
Waiting at Lageso
before the Law stands a doorkeeper. To this doorkeeper there comes a man from the country who begs for admittance to the Law. But the doorkeeper says that he cannot admit the man at the moment. The man, on reflection, asks if he will be allowed, then, to enter later. ‘It is possible,’ answers the doorkeeper, ‘but not at this moment.’ ”
Germany, where upwards of one million asylum-seekers arrived in 2015, has become one of the focal points of the refugee crisis. Civil society organizations have stepped forward to supplement state migration institutions and infrastructure, which have proven woefully inadequate to process this unprecedented wave of asylum seekers. In Berlin the inefficiency of the bureaucratic system is displayed for all to see in the social services offices which, until October, 2015, served as the one and only point of registration for arriving refugeesthe Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales, or Lageso. Hundreds of Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Syrians, Bosnians and others have to wait outdoors for weeks at a time, coping with the incoming winter temperatures. A small monitor displays a handful of numbers: the record of the lucky few whose appointment has been called. Groups in the crowd keep spirits high despite the circumstances, cheering every fifteen to twenty minutes when the screen lights up with a new number. German volunteers offer coffee and donated second-hand clothes. The crowd disperses at 5 pm, taking buses back to temporary shelters outside the city, only to return the following morning. The European Dream is slow and painful in the making.