Finding a refugee in my basement was a wake-up call to the crisis

Bernie Duffy writes: ur neighbourhood in the western suburbs of Hamburg was built during the Nazi era. Short, uniform red-brick buildings, covered in lush ivy, stand in neat rows perpendicular to a quiet leafy street. My girlfriend and I, from Scotland and Ireland respectively, love it here. The neighbours are largely foreigners too and there is a great sense of community.

One unusual feature of our street is the basement complex that connects the buildings. During the war, this labyrinth of tunnels was used for air raids. Blast-proof metal doors are still in place and have to be opened with huge levers, like on a ship.

Hamburg is a tolerant, cosmopolitan city. It has been relatively welcoming to refugees (compared to some other German cities). The biggest humanitarian crisis to hit Europe since the war is happening, and everyone here is acutely aware of it. At Hamburg’s main train station, hundreds of migrants arrive every day, and can be seen standing around in groups, looking confused and not knowing where to go next. In response citizens are mobilising to provide support. Container-style villages have been popping up in some of the nicest neighbourhoods, to provide emergency housing for the sudden influx of people. As a freelance consultant, I visit many clients’ offices and in each I see a corner with donations piled high to send to the refugee centres.

Last Thursday morning I had an earlier than usual start. Dragging myself out of bed at 6am for an important meeting on the other side of the city, the refugee crisis was the last thing on my mind. Dressed and ready, I went to the cellar to fetch my bike. I was just about to pull it out of the storage room when there was a movement at the edge of my line of vision. I nearly hit my head on the low ceiling in fright, as there was a woman, scrambling to pick up her clothes from the floor. [Continue reading…]

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