Today, I went to the 'Flüchtlingserstaufnahmestelle' (Registration Office for Refugees) on Turm Strasse. Located in the multicultural heart of Moabit in a former factory, consisting of several buildings surrounded by a sort-of park, this is one of several such registration offices, scattered all across Berlin. What I found there, were masses of people, most of them from Syria (as far as I could tell), sitting on the ground, looking worn out, exhausted, and just simply desolate. Desperation was written all over their faces. I was especially astonished by the huge number of children, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, didn't look quite as desperate and sad as their parents did, for given that they were somewhere between 3 and 7 years old, they most probably haven't quite grasped yet what's going on. Or, maybe, they were so taken by Lucas (my dog), that they forgot about the fix they're in. Unfortunately, Lucas being one of those dogs who's scared by children (especially in great numbers), he started to get nervous, unable to cope with all the fuss made over him.
A female volunteer, in full burqa, came over and suggested (in accent-free German, I might add), that I carry Lucas and get him out. Apparently, this wasn't the first such incidence, according to her. Moreover, the grounds were full of volunteers from all walks of life - carrying makeshift name tags - assisting the refugees, some of them translating, others helping them with the registration or getting their medical. Several tents were scattered across the huge factory plot, some for giving out food, others for medical care. There also was a mobile x-ray truck as well as a string of portable loos. I tried to get in touch with some of the refugees, spoke to them, but sadly, none of the ones I spoke to had any English, nor French, let alone German. The answer I usually got was, '... from Syria ... only Arabic ...', which sadly, I myself don't speak. As a result, making contact - which was the primary reason why I went - was limited. Still, it was an interesting, a moving, experience.
Initially, I'd been hoping to get involved through a Volunteer Agency, but all four agencies I contacted turned me down, saying that "they're inundated with requests for volunteering", something which I instantly believe,for even in those 45 minutes or so I was there, there was a constant trickle of people walking in, carrying boxes and bags to donate food, clothes, and other things. The idea was to take some pictures and post them here, but once I was there, I quickly dropped the idea for it struck me as indecent and, quite frankly, rude and invasive. So the only picture I dared taking is the one here, and as you can imagine, this can only give you an approximate idea of the whole situation: