When asked about his political goal, Bruno Watara's answer is short and to the point: "I want refugees in Germany to be treated like human beings - with respect." The refugee activist knows from his own experience that this is not a matter of course and that the reality is different.
Bruno Watara was born in Togo in 1963 and grew up there. As a student, he began to get involved in the opposition movement against the regime of the dictator Gnassingbé Eyadéma. When he witnessed a political murder in 1993, he had to flee to Ghana via Benin. Because he was not safe from persecution there either, he fled to Germany in 1997. Here he applied for asylum and was sent to a refugee camp in Tramm-Zapel in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Bruno calls this run-down military barracks in the middle of the forest, which is now no longer used as accommodation, just the "jungle home": "I was in this place for seven years - without contact with the outside, without perspective, without knowing what tomorrow will bring. You feel like you are tied down." The entire camp in Tramm-Zapel was under video surveillance and fenced in with barbed wire; visitors were "greeted" by a chained sheepdog. The nearest town with shopping facilities was nine kilometres away and there was often not enough money for the bus, which only ran twice a day.
Together with other refugees, Bruno began to fight against the inhumane conditions. He came into contact with the nationwide Nolager network, with whom he prepared many actions and demonstrations. In 2007, for example, he mobilised refugees in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern to demonstrate against the G8 summit in Heiligendamm. And in 2004 he helped organise the protests by refugees that eventually led to refugee camps like the "Dschungelheim" in Tramm-Zapel being replaced by new accommodation.
Since 2006, Bruno's own residence status has been secured through a partnership - but the long life in the camp and the years of threat of deportation have left a strong political mark on him. He now lives in Berlin and has a mini-job as a domestic helper. But he devotes the rest of his time to fighting for the rights of refugees. "I can't just forget about the people who are still in the camps. After all, I experienced it myself and know what isolation does. At some point, all courage leaves you."
As an example, he mentions a refugee from the Ivory Coast who has been living in a camp in Parchim for 15 years. "He is completely traumatised, has no contact with his family and no contact with the outside world, doesn't go outside." This is where Bruno wants to try to help. "I want to give people self-confidence so that they fight for their rights themselves." To do this, he travels all over Germany, visits camps and keeps in touch with the refugees.
He is also involved in various organisations, such as the refugee organisation "The VOICE Refugee Forum" and the "Initiative Zusammenleben e.V. ", which supports refugees and migrants with precarious residence status. He also works in the "Bündnis gegen Lager" (Alliance against Camps), which wants to initiate a campaign against camp accommodation for refugees in Brandenburg. In 2011, Bruno took part in the Caravan Project of the "Association of Deported Malians". Together with other activists, he travelled from Mauritania via Mali to Dakar/Senegal to participate in the World Social Forum that was taking place there.
Networking with other activists and participating in actions is important to Bruno - this is where he draws his strength from: "The actions and demos show you 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 Bruno Watara is involved in:
Alliance Against Camps Berlin/Brandenburg