From our sister Kordula in the Karlsruhe community at Haus Lavigerie, Germany
I met Nora, a Sudanese woman (not her real name and nationality) three years ago during Advent while baking cookies.
She had fled with her family, her husband and her three children. Her fourth child, disabled, was born in Germany. Being able to communicate in Arabic made it easier to get in touch and to be there for the family.
In August 2020, Nora came to tell me that the employment center was no longer paying them benefits: accommodation, food, medical care, and a contribution for personal needs. These services are guarantees by a legal residency permit that just expired!
As Nora is not fluent in German, it was difficult for her to navigate the bureaucracy. The permit expired because she did not immediately respond to the Immigration Office and did not explain the obstacles, which prevented her from renewing her passport and those of family members. The family had done everything possible to get new valid passports at the Sudanese embassy in Berlin, but the Corona pandemic prevented all obligations from being fulfilled within the deadline and the family therefore found themselves in the country in an illegal situation and without money. Getting in touch with the immigration office has been very difficult due to this pandemic. No appointment setting possible, no answer to phone calls or emails due to the office surcharge!
What to do?
In the meantime, Nora has requested a loan of 1,700 euros from the agency to cover all costs. It received a positive response with the obligation to repay this amount in installments.
Together with Caritas, we have supported the family through food vouchers and by contacting other government bodies, such as foreign affairs, family finance and the employment office. The family borrowed money from acquaintances to buy food, milk and what is needed for the care of the disabled child. The children went to school hungry because there was no snack during the break, only one meal a day.
Because the employment office terminated all contracts, the family was no longer covered by health insurance, which is compulsory in Germany. I went with Nora to a private health insurance office and the family was insured with 190 euros. They were even threatened with having to leave their apartment, but the owner was very understanding when I spoke with him. However they had to pay the electricity and water bills, as well as the transport card so that the father could attend the compulsory language school.
The family was helped through generous donations. After two months, they received their new residence permits and the transfer of funds for their subsistence was made. Due to administrative deficiencies, the family was pushed to existential limits, but they were able to live in dignity thanks to a spirit of solidarity and compassion.
We are all happy that after a year of waiting the disabled child was granted a place in a special kindergarten. After all these fears and uncertainties the future opens up with hope and confidence.