Bruno Watara

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If you ask Bruno Watara about his political goal his answer is quite succint: "I want that refugees in Germany are treated like human beings - with respect." The refugee activist knows from his own experience that this cannot be taken for granted.

Bruno Watara grew up in Togo, where he was born in 1963. As a student he got involved in the resistance movement against the regime of dictator Gnassingbé Eyadéma. When he witnessed a political murder in 1993 he had to flee to Ghana via Benin. There he still wasn't safe from persecution, that's why he fled to Germany in 1997. Here he made an application for asylum and was sent to a refugee camp in Tramm-Zapel in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Bruno calls these run-down military baracks in the middle of a forest "Jungle camp"; in the meantime it is not used any more as accomodation. »I spent seven years in this place - without contact to the outside world, without perspective, without knowing what would be tomorrow. You feel like in chains." The whole camp in Tramm-Zapel was monitored by a video cameras and fenced in with barbed-wired fence. Visitors were 'welcomed' by a chained German shepherd dog. The next place with shopping facilities was nine kilometres away, and often there was not enough money for the bus that ran only twice a day.

Together with other refugees Bruno began to offer resistance against these inhumane conditions. He got in touch with the network 'No lager', with which he prepared a lot of actions and demonstrations. In 2007, he mobilized refugees in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern to the demonstration against the G8 summit. And in 2004, he organized protests of refugees which eventually led to the replacement of asylum camps like the 'jungle camp' in Tramm-Zapel with new accomodation.
Since 2006 Bruno's own right to residence is assured by a partnership – but years of living in an asylum camp and and the long-lasting threat of deportation have shaped him politically. Presently he lives in Berlin, working part time as domestic help. But the rest of this time he devotes to fighting for the rights of refugees. "I just cannot forget the people who are still in the camps. I have experienced this myself and know what isolation does to you. At some point, you lose courage."

As an example he talks about a refugee from Ivory Coast who has been living in a camp in Parchim for 15 years. "He is completely traumatized, has no contact to his familiy and does leave the camp." In these cases, Bruno wants to help. "I want to give people self-confidence so they can fight for their rights." For this purpose, he travels through Germany, visits asylum camps and keeps in touch with refugees.

Moreover he is involved in several organizations, such as the refugee organization "The VOICE Refugee Forum«  and the »Initiative Living Together e.V. « that supports refugees and migrants with an insecure right to residence. He also works for »Coalition against Camps", which aims to initiate a campaign against the accomodation of refugees in camps. In 2011 Bruno took part in the "Caravan" - project of "Association of Deported Malinese". Together with other activists he traveled from Mauretania via Mali to Senegal, to participate in the World Social Forum that took place in Dakar.

Networking with other activists and taking part in demonstrations is important for Bruno - that's where he gets this energy from: "The actions and demos show how much you can achieve together." He will continue - until refugees are treated with the respect they deserve." Bruno has been a Movement Worker since June 2010.

Some links to initiatives in which Bruno Watara is involved:

Coalition against Camps Berlin/Brandenburg


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