A place of welcome

Those who come to Germany to live here have usually given up a lot. Family, friends, the familiar language, home – perhaps even a dream of a lifetime – had to be left behind. The meeting place of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Auslandsgesellschaft (BBAG) helps migrants, emigrants, and refugees to get started in Brandenburg an der Havel.

Reading time: 2 min.

“We want to enable people we educate to be ready to go out there, making their own decisions, getting jobs, to live an independent and self-reliant life,” says Daniel Herzog. The Brandenburger supports adult male migrants on Gotthardtkirchplatz since October 2019.


The cliché image of “the” refugee is wrong


Anyone over the age of 27 can seek advice on schooling, jobs, housing, health and family issues. Most of Daniel’s clients are fathers and husbands who had to leave their families behind because the arduous journey to Germany would have been too much for their wives and children. “If you look behind the scenes, the cliché image of a refugee being a young single man is wrong,” says Daniel.
The number of refugees in Brandenburg an der Havel has been steadily declining in recent years. In 2015, the city took in 75 refugees a week, in 2020 the number decreased to 50 –over the whole year. Since 1991, BBAG has been providing advice and help for refugees. In the meantime, it is hard to find a nationality that has not been trained and aided at BBAG.
In addition to courses teaching literacy and German, BBAG offers the so called ‘Orientierungskurs’ in which knowledge about the state, society and history of Germany is taught. The exam ‘Leben in Deutschland’, necessary for naturalization, can also be taken here. The ‘Mütter in Bewegung’ programme helps women to find a job and training opportunities in the city of Brandenburg and the surrounding area.

Personal contact reduces anxieties


The MentIntegra project represents a special approach towards integration. Here, long-time residents of the city meet new Brandenburgers. Partnerships functioning on the tandem principle allow for exchange between cultures. Talking about problems, giving advice on life in Brandenburg an der Havel, listening to stories about life in other places on the planet – personal contact is the best way to reduce resentments and anxieties. Multicultural exchange is a top priority not only in the BBAG café, but also in the monthly event series Radoun, which takes place in various locations in the city.
Everyone is welcome at these events, which are all about music, dance, food, and storytelling. You are well advised to bring along food, a small dish as a contribution to the buffet which is usually laden with international specialities. This is an event where everyone is encouraged to share, and which now attracts a regular audience.
“A perfect place to meet,” explains Sebastian Möckel, who not only manages MentIntegra but also organizes the Radoun evenings. This becomes clear whenever Brandenburgers happen to attend by chance for the first time and return regularly afterwards. “With these events we offer a safe place for Brandenburgers as well as for migrants. Here they feel safe to encounter foreigners and, in the end, find out that their prejudices are obsolete,” says Sebastian.

After all, it is reassuring to know somebody, who is experienced and knows how things are commonly dealt with when you are in a new and unfamiliar city.