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A Stop On The Way: My Story with Asylum Seekers

A Stop On The Way: My Story with Asylum Seekers

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A Stop On The Way: My Story with Asylum Seekers

223 pages
3 hours
Jul 9, 2019


Carolina, a French woman living near Munich, embarks on a social journey with the asylum seekers in her town. She wants to welcome, share and integrate. She quickly finds herself on an emotional roller coaster, mixed with joy and hope, as well as sadness and deception. Where does this adventure take her?


July 2013. Germany is expecting the arrival of a large number of refugees soon. The refugees are to be dispatched homogeneously around the country. This causes concern and calls into question. Carolina, married, mother of two and new in her community, wants to get involved, she wants to help. Her social network is not very wide yet and she doesn't know how the administrative system really works but she is motivated and determined. How will she commit? What are her plans?

This autobiography, aiming at showing various aspects of immigration in Europe, recounts the social journey of a woman amongst the refugees in her town. In this astonishing adventure, her path will cross the path of a great number of travellers seeking for help, including Mariam, an Eritrean injured woman soldier, who has regular epileptic fits, Amadou Sane, a young Senegalese who left his motherland full of hopes and dreams and Bahoz, a young and depressed Iraqi journalist, prosecuted by ISIS.
This work describes the determination of a young woman in her quest to facilitate the integration of refugees in her town, intertwined with their sad and often tragic stories. Do they really have a chance to stay and be accepted? What is the reality?
Jul 9, 2019

Об авторе

Born into a multi-cultural family and having lived in various countries including Portugal, France, the US, the UK, Germany and Japan, Carolina loves to travel, meet new people, discover new cultures, and... write about it. Her engaging style and optimistic approach to life makes us want to follow her in her adventures, get lost in her world and immerse ourselves in her way of seeing life. She is convinced that open-mindedness and tolerance are keys to a better world. For more information, visit www.carolinaveranen.com Also by Carolina Veranen-Phillips: - Mint Tea to Maori Tattoo: ISBN 9780755214730. - A Stop on the Way: ISBN 9783738608434.

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A Stop On The Way - Carolina Veranen-Phillips

About the author:

Carolina Phillips, biologist, wife, and mother of two, is a very active volunteer in her community of Poing, near Munich, in Bavaria.

At the end of 2013, she started, developed and managed a project with the objective of helping to simplify the lives of asylum seekers and their integration into the local community.

Thanks to her multi-cultural origins and many trips overseas, Carolina loves welcoming new people, embracing new cultures and languages in her life. She is driven in her work by her passion and the pleasure of bringing people together.

She is convinced that an open mind and tolerance help to make our world a better place.

Other publications by Carolina Veranen-Phillips:

Mint Tea to Maori Tattoo! ISBN 9780755214730 (in English)

Haltestelle Poing ISBN 9783741210341 (in German)

Leur Périple ISBN 9782322084081 (in French)

To all the people who sought refuge in Poing

A big thank you to all those who helped me, believed in me and encouraged me. Without you I would not have accomplished as many things as I did.

I would specifically like to thank my family for their patience and Julie Phillips and David Schofield for helping with the proof reading.

The names of people presented in the book, other than those of the author Carolina Phillips and Mrs Ismair, who gave her permission, have been changed for reasons of security and the protection of identity.




They’ve Arrived!

At the Restaurant



The First German Lesson

Let’s eat!


At Fatima’s Place

Fatima and the German Class


The Boat Journey from Egypt

The People Smugglers

Catania - Munich

The Quarrel

Asylum Granted



New Families on Passauer Straße

Escape from Eritrea

Some Work for our Pakistanis


The Sports Centre Camp

The People of Poing Open Up









The Long Wait

Impact Day

Some News about Aliou


New Strategies to Find Work

Successful Asylum Seeker-Mentor Relationships

The Thank You Party

The Finishing Line






The first thing I asked myself on reading the original title of the book "Haltestelle Poing (literally Poing Station"), is what does it really mean.

To my way of thinking, in this context "station" could be considered like a milestone, or an event that defines our lives. Without them, we wouldn’t have any points of reference and would go through life with less assurance. We all need our milestones in order to go forward.

Many asylum seekers have left their country in quest to find a safer place to live. Hundreds of them arrived in Poing, where for the first time they found a safe home, a refuge.

These asylum seekers have been welcomed in Poing by Carolina Phillips, a volunteer at the Family Centre, who, with her group of volunteers, have prepared for their arrival.

Thanks to her dedication, unlimited empathy and overflowing creativity, and to the many projects undertaken by the Family Centre, our community has become a break from danger for the asylum seekers on their way to a new life. What drove her to helping the new comers are her interest in other cultures and her curiosity. A great opportunity for our community.

On behalf of all our volunteers, I thank Carolina Phillips for her engagement in the face of such a social challenge.

As for you, dear readers, I leave you to discover the beautiful and the sad moments in this book. I hope that it will arouse your curiosity and you will feel inspired by these projects of support and integration for asylum seekers, whoever they are.

Albert Hingerl

Mayor of Poing

I How It All Started

They’ve Arrived!

February 2014. I received a telephone call that was unexpected. But the information that Thomas Gerck shared with me was not. The journalist from the Munich Merkur gave me the news that I was waiting for.

"Hello Mrs Phillips, perhaps you are already up to date, but I wanted to inform you that the first asylum seekers are here. They arrived in Poing yesterday."

As soon as I hung up, I sensed my heart beating to the rhythm of my thoughts: How many are there? Where have they come from? What ordeals have they experienced? Innumerable questions surged in my mind, for which, as yet, I did not have answers.

I armed myself with patience. I had been waiting a long time for them to arrive and had prepared myself to be there for them, to help them.

They had arrived at last: four men from Pakistan, the first asylum seekers in Poing. The time had now come to go and meet them. But how best to begin? Should I simply go and visit them? Or should I first obtain approval from the Local Council (Landratsamt, or LRA). Where were they living exactly? I needed information and contacts, but I had neither. Everything had started in the month of August 2013. The mayor of Poing, a small town near Munich, had invited the members of the local community to an evening meeting in order to demystify the question of asylum. It would be the opportunity to explain the situation of asylum seekers in Germany and to explain the repercussions on the town of Poing. Because of the growing number of migrants in Europe, it was expected that Germany would equally be confronted with this reality. In fact, since 2011, the number of asylum seekers in Germany had grown by about 50% each year. In 2013, there were 127,000 and in 2014, 202,834. In 2015, the Federal Office for Immigration and Refugees (BAMF) had received 425,035 requests.

It wasn’t only large cities like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich which had been called upon; the towns and villages around these urban centres where equally expected to take support asylum seekers.

Poing is a town both small and young. It has a population of 15,000 and is located east of Munich, in the region of Ebersberg. Around twenty of the community members took part in this meeting about the asylum seekers. The mayor and representatives of the LRA of Ebersberg were trying, based on facts and figures, to examine the possibility of welcoming the asylum seekers into our community and making provisions to that effect. However, the real objective of the meeting was to find accommodation for the asylum seekers.

It was during the course of the evening that I met Bettina Ismair. It was a rewarding meeting, decisive and inspiring for the events to come. Years before, Bettina had developed a program for the children of asylum seekers called "Open Door – Open Heart". Once a week, the volunteer families opened the doors of their homes to the children and in this way permitted them to be part of their family for an afternoon. The observations and interventions of Bettina Ismair during the course of the evening revealed her broad experience in topics relating to asylum. It fascinated me. Wanting to know more about her work, I approached her after the meeting. She had managed to launch a great project all by herself and to change the lives of many children, and in doing so, that of their families. Her experience inspired me to set up a similar project in Poing. Even though at this point I didn’t know how much I wanted to involve myself in the project, I was determined to take action. To achieve this, I had only my own determination and a few contacts at the Family Centre. I did not know how the representatives of the LRA, and especially the mayor, felt at the end of the meeting. I did not know if they were satisfied with the reactions of the citizens.

However, I knew that this evening had set off something inside of me: I felt inspired. A sort of awakening. The theme had touched me. On my way back home I felt that everything had become clear: I wanted to help. It felt good. At that moment, I knew that I had made the right choice. I just didn’t know how much this decision would change my life.

We were now in the month of February 2014, and our first four asylum seekers had arrived in Poing. Close to six months had rolled by since our meeting with the mayor. I took the opportunity to adapt myself to the situation and to complete the preparations. I was very happy that Thomas Gerck had informed me of the arrival of the asylum seekers. It isn’t easy for new arrivals to fend for themselves in the community.

The first time that I had met Thomas Gerck was at the Family Centre, some time ago. He was writing an article about the welcoming role of the Family Centre on the new citizens setting foot in Poing and interviewed me because I was one of them: I had just arrived three weeks beforehand. For the new people in the town, like me, the Family Centre constituted an ideal springboard to forge links with members of the community. Several times a week, a coffee meeting was held there. It was a good opportunity to meet new people and to make friends. From the start, I felt welcome. I was able to talk and exchange advice with other mothers who had similar problems and concerns as I did. If I hadn’t discovered these coffee meetings, I would never have been able to volunteer for the cause of asylum seekers.

Later, I contacted Thomas again to talk to him about the charity event that I had organised on behalf of the Family Centre, in February 2014. The goal was to raise funds for future asylum seekers. As it happened, the event was held a week before the arrival of the asylum seekers, something we were unaware of at the time. Gerck had sent a photographer to document the occasion. This was one of the reasons why he called me the day after the arrival of the asylum seekers. He wanted to speak to me about his article on the charity event. Without his call, I would not have been informed so promptly of their arrival. Now I only wanted to meet the four new comers. Meet them in order to start the help process. Thomas Gerck had told me that Marie Berg from "Poinger Tafel (the food bank of Poing) had registered them at the town hall. I didn’t know Marie Berg and certainly didn’t know about the food bank. However, I didn’t have much trouble finding her contact details. I rushed to call her and was disappointed to get her voice mail. I left a message and only thirty minutes later my mobile phone rang. It was Marie, Hello, Mrs Phillips. You called me?" I was pleasantly surprised to hear her voice. I quickly explained the situation. I told her that I was on the board of the Family Centre and was about to set up a project to help the asylum seekers. To do this I had to meet them first. Was she able to help me?

There was a brief moment’s silence at the other end of the phone. Then came the long-awaited answer, "Tomorrow, I am organising a lunch for the people who attend the food bank. I have also invited our four asylum seekers. Would you like to join us? Do you speak English?"

After hanging up I jumped in the air and let out a "yes!" while making a victory gesture with my hands, as if I had won a set at tennis. It was all happening finally. That night I went to bed happy and serene.

At the Restaurant

When things are meant to happen, they feel right. No wonder I felt full of energy and on top of the world the next day. I couldn't wait to meet our first asylum seekers. I had been waiting since August the year before. Now I was ready to act and it felt good. Meeting the new comers didn’t seem that exotic or amazing to the eye of the observer but for me it was. In fact for me, it was going to be something symbolic: the beginning of something new, a new chapter in my life, not only theirs. The start of a project... That day I was committing myself to a cause and that meeting was the key to opening the door to that engagement, something I had never really done before. I had never really been involved in the community or with a cause that matters. In fact I had never been involved in anything at all. I had played sports but always stayed out of the sports club's life, just being an observer, never committing myself. I have always been busier with all my little personal projects and dreams that I had never found the time to actively commit myself to a cause, a club or something of that sort.

When I arrived at the restaurant, I saw a large table full of people. There must have been about thirty men and women. As I pushed the door, all eyes turned to me. I looked around and noticed Marie Berg. When she saw me, she introduced me to the group. I sat on the side of the table where the asylum seekers were sitting. At first, I was surprised to see only three men. I was expecting to meet four Pakistanis. I was told that the fourth man, Nuwair, hadn’t wanted to come, as his situation was different from that of the others. In fact, he had already spent several years in Austria, before coming to Germany. He had already learnt German. Perhaps he had also already taken part in a welcome ceremony, and therefore didn’t feel the necessity to repeat the experience. Maybe he simply didn’t want, or need, our aid. And perhaps he already knew that his integration into a new community would not accelerate his request for asylum. Such requests go through the Federal Office for Immigration and Refugees or BAMF (see "The Asylum Application Procedure in Germany" pp 176-177): they are not processed and examined on the spot in the community¹. Being integrated or not in a German municipality or speaking German has no bearing on the outcome of the asylum procedure. The only thing which counts is what happened beforehand in the country of origin.

Then I introduced myself. In fact, I had no idea how to best go about it. Who was I? Who was I representing? What could I say, what could I offer? My project was only in its infancy. I still had no specific plan. I wanted first to observe and get a better idea of the situation. I also did not know what the expectations of the asylum seekers were. Maybe they did not even want our help. Who knows? First, I wanted to understand the situation of the asylum seekers and simply welcome the newcomers. The situation in which I found myself was totally new, not only for me but also for the whole community of Poing².

In English, I started to explain that I was part of a group of volunteers who wanted to help the asylum seekers in the community. I added that our group could familiarise them with the German language and culture and, most importantly, make sure that they felt welcome in the community. Azfar was the only one who could speak English. Arfeen and Hosni, despite their efforts, could only say a few words. As Azfar had arrived in Europe by plane, he must have had a tourist visa. Arfeen and Hosni had taken the long and painful route passing through Greece (Map 1, page →).They had some knowledge of Greek but practically no English. As my Greek is almost non-existent and my Urdu³ non-existent, I could only talk to Azfar.

Speaking with him brought back memories. It reminded me of my time in England, where many Indians and Pakistanis lived. One can often confuse the two, although they come from two totally different cultures with distinct political and religious contexts. During the second half of the 20th century, many Indians and Pakistanis immigrated to Britain. In Germany, on the other hand, we rarely meet them. That’s why my first question to Azfar was to ask

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