Touring play says Germany no paradise for migrants

A satirical play touring Germany aims to debunk any suggestion that the million migrants who entered Germany this year have made it to paradise.

Heiko Ostendorf, director of “Asylant im Wunderland” (“Asylum Seeker in Wonderland”), said many Germans harbored the suspicion that the new arrivals were living the high life here at their expense.

“They think the refugees who come to Germany had nothing back home, lived in corrugated iron huts and should be thankful to have running water here. But that’s rubbish, and the idea they’re living in wonderland now even though some sleep in tent cities and gymnasiums is absolute nonsense,” he told Reuters.

Peppered with black humor, the play portrays two officials from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees at an airport, searching for refugees who can help fill Germany’s increasing shortage of skilled labor.

They greet two well-qualified refugees with roses, sparkling wine, beer and coffee before offering to take them to a four-star hotel or a luxury penthouse by limousine.

But the refugees – Basima and Berschko – are not interested. They have been living in Germany for some time already and their experience is far from what the officials are promising.

An information board fills up with planes landing in “hell” while a flight headed for “paradise” is marked as canceled.

Basima laments leaving behind her good job, comfortable apartment and parties with friends to end up sharing a tiny room with eight others in a rat- and cockroach-infested refugee home in Germany.

She was jailed in her home country because she campaigned for the rights of homosexuals and women but views living in Germany, a “prison of rules, bureaucrats, laws and forms”, as little better, and is planning to flee to yet another country.

The character is based on Ostendorf’s Iranian girlfriend and the play also draws on the experiences of refugees from countries as varied as Congo and Serbia.

“I wanted to give a voice to the refugees I spoke to, plus countless others who don’t speak German and so can’t express themselves,” Ostendorf said, adding that he was outraged by the idea that some people seeking protection could be considered useful for the labor market and others not.

In the penultimate scene the two actors, who play both the refugees and the officials, ask audience members to raise their hands if they studied law, engineering, economics or science.

One woman is “deported” for not being useful enough.

“It’s inhumane to categorize people who need help as either useful or useless,” Ostendorf said.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin; editing by Andrew Roche)

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