Meet Bridges Over Borders ⁠— a Community Collective Supporting BIPOC/ Queer/ Marginalised Refugees.
By Ewan Waddell

Meet Bridges Over Borders ⁠— a Community Collective Supporting BIPOC/ Queer/ Marginalised Refugees.

Once we heard about the meaningful work of Bridges Over Borders, we knew it was only right to share our platform with them to help amplify their cause.

So how would you describe your mission?

“We are a community-based collective that supports Bipoc and/or queer Third State Nationals on all levels to ensure their settlement in Berlin. We provide legal and bureaucratic assistance as well as ad-hoc help through finding mid and long-term accommodations as well as livelihood support through material/food/financial help where it is needed.”

“We also do a lot of advocacy work to point out the unequal treatment of Third State Nationals in this crisis. We are working alongside bigger and smaller organizations and civil society groups, such as KWIG e.V. (Kenyan Women in Germany), TANG e.V. (The African Network Germany), ADA Netzwerk e.V. (The African Diasporic Academic Network), Casa Kuá (A trans, inter, non-binary and queer BIPoC-led holistic health centre), EOTO e.V. and many more, and have created a survey for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to clearly point out the issues our supported group of people are facing. With this, we are hoping to create enough pressure for political decision-makers to apply some positive changes in this very tricky situation.”

“We are documenting people’s experiences with discriminatory practices during their journey to find safety, as well as upon arrival here. We are also facilitating the political organizing of Third State Nationals from Ukraine, by connecting them to activists in Berlin, some of whom have fled from other conflicts, climate catastrophes or other forms of endangerment, to amplify these voices as much as possible and for them to find solace and strength in connecting with other struggles.”

“Check out this great initiative from our friends at “Bipoc Ukraine and Friends in Germany” we  supported with our knowledge of the legal and bureaucratic barriers international students from Ukraine face, and make sure to leave a signature:


What is a Third State National?

“Technically speaking, a Third State National in EU-Terms, is a citizen from a non-EU state and who is not a person enjoying the EU's right to free movement defined by the Schengen Agreement. So technically Ukrainian Citizens also fall within this category but are counted as EU-neighbours, and are in this special case of the war in the Ukraine exempted from this rule.”

Who are you guys behind all this great work? What are your backgrounds?

“A lot of us are based in the Berlin cultural world, we are working in the music industry, fashion, club scene but there are also professionals from many different fields of social work, medical fields, the sciences, university staff, IT, various media etc.”

How did you get started in this kind of work?

“As we started getting the news on especially vulnerable person groups (mainly Bipoc but also LGBTQIA) being denied safe passageway at the borders, we made sure to pick them up and as we started bringing people to Berlin we had to come up with the necessary structure to ensure further support through finding accommodation and started on building up the other necessary ways of support, after arrival.”

What additional stresses do these marginalised groups face that the majority may not?

“Our focus group faces additional stresses each step of their way. It starts with being denied safe passage way and humanitarian aid at the borders and continues with discriminatory practices by police or train/transportation staff on their way.”

“After arrival in Berlin, Third State Nationals find themselves being turned away or even denied access by official shelters and the central "welcoming points", the offered explanations for this being either false claims about not presenting the right documents or also simple racist statements like "we don't serve blacks here". This might be tough to hear and you might not want to believe it, but it is extremely important to point out to which extent blatant racism still exists, even in a big, multicultural city such as Berlin.”

“Through immediately finding accommodation through private, carefully vetted hosts we have been able to avoid such situations, at least for those that we or friends have transported to Berlin. Yet often people turn up at Bridges over Borders that have sadly had to go through such experiences. There is a great variety of these kind of stories, that we also hear through other groups that we work closely with in Berlin, as well as other cities in Germany. Needless to say, that any person fleeing a war, uprooted from their livelihood and home, shouldn't face additional traumatizing and ostracizing experiences on their way to a new life.”

“The experiences we've had at the various city offices also say a lot about the difference in treatment when it comes to Ukrainian citizens versus Third State Nationals. People have been forced to sign applications for asylum, denied health care and social welfare. We closely monitor and guide every step of the way, while always staying informed and up to date of the regulations and entitlements that apply to Third State Nationals. This is very necessary, as in some extreme cases, passports have been taken away illegitimately at the Bürgeramt and people have been taken to police station, handcuffed, even though they carried all the required documents.”

“In most recent cases, people are also being sent across the borders again to retrieve documents in Ukrainian offices, potentially endangering themselves! We have already made the stressful and frightening experience to have to pay lawyers to get people out of situations of illegal detainment at the borders on these journeys. This particular situation happened to a mother who was told she had retrieve her child’s birth certificate in Kyiv, so she left her baby with a friend and made this very risky journey. On her way back to Berlin she was illegally put in a detention center at the border of Poland.”

What are the flaws of the German support system that you’re trying to account for?

“The German support system welcomes all Ukrainian Refugees fleeing the war. This is absolutely wonderful and we believe it should be the norm. All humans fleeing war and the destruction of their homes should receive our full solidarity.”

“Non-Ukrainian citizens are in practice, often not recognized as "Ukrainian Refugees" so they find themselves segregated in this support system, which also keeps them in an annoyingly dynamic legal grey zone, which they are basically unable to navigate without German-speaking support. Even for us solidarity helpers, with assistance of lawyers and professional social workers, have been dealing with a lot of difficulties navigating this legal space and the seemingly arbitrary application of ever changing regulations. It is an ongoing learn-by-doing situation every step of the way.” 

What has been the biggest struggle with the work you do?

“There are multiple struggles that are quite big. As the war goes on we see the interest in offering solidarity fade more and more. We are struggling to get funding and struggling to stem all this essential work on our own, unpaid time. We are struggling to find long-term housing for our people who need to have a registered address in Berlin in order to start off their lives properly, send their kids to school and kindergartens and find work or educational opportunities.”

“Most annoyingly is the constant changing of different official procedures, which we mostly learn about through accompanying our clients. Decisions that affect the daily lives of a very large group of people who basically find themselves stranded in this system, are made without giving any kind of notices. Even the state officials in the governmental offices are sometimes barely in the know about these changes in procedure, concerning Third State Nationals from Ukraine.”

How can people help? Financially or non-financially 

“We will need ongoing financial help for as long as we are still not a registered and regularly funded organization. So include us in your fundraisers, donate to our cause if you can. To be included in fundraisers also means to keep up the attention to our work, which is so important. So speak about us, share our Instagram stories and posts to widen our media reach as well.

We are also constantly looking for volunteers no matter how small or large the role they want to take on, so keep an eye out for our calls for more support! And if you think you have something you could help with, always let us know!”

Thank you to Bridges Over Borders. You can find all the relevant links to how you can help below, or you can reach out to them directly at outreach@bridgesoverborders.de

Become a Member - Volunteers Page - Donation Link - Become a Host - Recruiting Form


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