Statewatch News Online: Germany: Refugee from Cameroon threatened with imprisonment for resisting travel restrictions imposed on asylum seekers

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Germany: Refugee from Cameroon threatened with imprisonment for resisting travel restrictions imposed on asylum seekers

"Synopsis: The German self-organised refugee group The Voice and the Göttinger Arbeitskreis zur Unterstützung von Asylsuchenden e.V. is asking for support in their campaign to stop the imprisonment of Cornelius Yufanyi for fighting for his right to free movement.

FAX Campaign for Cornelius Yufanyi:

Imprisoned for the right of freedom of movement?

The activist of the refugee organisation The Voice Refugee Forum Germany, Cornelius Yufanyi from Victoria-Limbe/ Cameroon, father of a child and
Student of forestry at the University of Göttingen, is requested to appear at the district court on Thursday, 27.10.2005, to follow the warrant of arrest issued against him. Yufanyi has been living in Germany since 1998 and has been fighting for years against the so called Residenzpflicht. Three times he had to answer to the court already, since having been accused of violating the Residenzpflicht law in 2000. The offers of the court to drop the case because of minor guilt were all rejected by Cornelius Yufanyi. Now Yufanyi is supposed to pay a fine of 15 daily rates each 10 Euro.

“I won’t pay for my right of freedom of movement and I am ready to go into prison for this”, says Cornelius Yufanyi who continues his fight for an
acquittal and the repeal of the discriminating Residenzpflicht law for asylum seekers.”

Yufanyi shall now be forced to disclose his financial conditions. On Thursday 27th of October he is supposed to go to the bailiff. If not, the warrant of arrest against him will be remitted. The background: In the year 2000 Yufanyi attended a congress in Jena. Cornelius Yufanyi then was subject to the Residenzpflicht law. This law indicates that refugees are not allowed to leave the district they are allocated to by the authorities without permission of the Ausländerbehörde. Yufanyi’s apply for permission was rejected although he was one of the main organisers of the congress. An employee of the Ausländerbehörde Heiligenstadt (Landkreis Eichsfeld/Thüringen) saw an interview with Yufanyi in an article of the Thüringer Allgemeine and reported him to the police.

“This is an inhumane policy we will not submit to”, says Yufanyi. And he has many supporters. Yufanyi and other activists now have accused the German state to the European Court of Human Rights because of racist legislation. Germany is the only European country that actually prohibits refugees to Move freely. “This law strongly reminds of the Apartheid law in former Southern Africa”, comments Yufanyi.” “Perhaps the Germans will be able to understand us better, in the times of Hartz IV ­ one of the central so-called reforms of the current cutbacks in The social welfare system in Germany” says Osaren Igbinoba, chairman of the refugee organisation The Voice Refugee Forum Germany. Germans unemployed need a permission by the employment office when they want to leave their place of residence. According to the minister of state Andres the affected persons have to be every working day personally available at their residence. “This is different to the refugee issues though”, Osaren Igbinoba continues, “ as it will hardly lead to increasing controls by the police and BGS.” Non-German looking people however always have to expect being controlled. And then they get a penalty of leaving the district without permission. When violating the Residenzpflicht law several times refugees have to face a fine of up to 2500 Euro or even a one-year prison sentence.”

“I will definitely continue fighting”, says Cornelius Yufanyi, “for the right of freedom of movement and for my human dignity.” Yufanyi will, as arranged with his lawyers, not go to court on 27th of October. “I have been to the courts ­ up to the Federal Constitutional Court ­ to fight for my rights. I will not cooperate any longer.” What awaits him now is very likely prison. Until he has disclosed his financial condition and done his time for the fine of 323,20 euro. Having fought against the Residenzpflicht law two other activists and refugees of the organisation The Voice Refugee Forum Germany have already been in prison for two weeks each.”

There are several organisations that have been protesting against the discriminating law for years. The refugee council UNHCR has applied several times to the German authorities and courts to revise the Residenzpflicht law ­ without success. The law is, according to the UNHCR, incompatible with international law. The case Yufanyi together with the case of Sunny Omwenyehe in the European Court for Human Rights are supported among others by the Human Rights Organisation Pro Asyl.

For further information, see also:

Background information:

Years of fighting for the right of free movement ends with imprisonment Cornelius Yufanyi, a refugee from Cameroon and member of the human rights
organisation The Voice Refugee Forum is threatened with imprisonment for having violated the travel restriction regulation imposed on asylum seekers in Germany - this threat is becoming reality 5 ½ years after his participation in the refugee congress in Jena, eastern Germany, which is when proceedings were first initiated against him. By now, Cornelius has a young daughter, who is a German citizen. He has almost completed his degree in forestry. He is still politically active and continues to fight against the racist refugee politics prevailing in Germany.


Because his life was under threat in Cameroon, Yufanyi fled to Germany in December 1998 and applied for asylum in January 1999. Refugees cannot
determine their place of residence so he had to live in an asylum seekers home located in the middle of a forest in Weilrode in Eichsfeld, which has since been closed down as a result of protests against the bad living conditions. Despite the authorities' intention to isolate refugees by forcing them to live a non-cash existence in remote areas, Yufanyi became an active member of the refugee organisation The Voice as well as the Caravan for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants.

In 1999, together with other refugees, he organised the refugee congress "Together against deportation and social exclusion", which took place from 20 April to 1 May 2000 in Jena. Many refugees were stopped from attending the conference because the local foreigners authorities refused to issue
travel permits. Refugees are subject to the so-called Residenzpflicht (literally: "obligation of residency") which lays down that they can only leave their designated regional district with permission from the foreigners authority. Cornelius Yufanyi was also not in possession of such a permit. On 28 April, eight days after the start of the conferences, an interview with Yufanyi was published in the regional newspaper Thüringer Allgemeine. This article was read by Mr Schäfer, representative of the foreigners authority of Heiligenstadt, who copied it and sent it to regional police force, which ordered Cornelius Yufanyi to appear at the station for an interrogation. Yufanyi refused to attend upon which the regional administrative court imposed a fine of 600 DM without a hearing. Cornelius Yufanyi refused to pay the fine: "I will not pay a fine for wanting to move freely. It is the right of every human being to go where ever he wants to go". This is why he had to go to court for the first time on 12 October 2000.

The first court case

On 12 October 2000, at the start of the first trial against Yufanyi, around 80 supporters came to the regional administrative court in Worbis to protest against the residency law. Only 36 supporters fitted into the court room, the others had to wait outside. Those who had been able to get an entry tickets had to undergo body searches, including metal detectors. The whole charade (and following demonstration) was accompanied by an excessive police presence. The authorities obviously wanted to give the impression that the incident discussed in court was a dangerous matter. However, during the trial, it was not Cornelius Yufanyi but the residency regulation itself that was put in the dock as a racist exceptional law. The lawyers as well as Yufanyi "addressed the racist practice of implementing the law as a central theme and thereby gave insight into the depths of institutional racism in Germany. It is an exemplary piece for showing the remits for control, spying and denunciation that exceptional laws for foreigners create for law enforcement officers and civil servants", an observer later described the trial.

The civil servant who had passed on the article to the police was invited as a witness. During his interrogation by the defence, the arbitrariness of the granting of travel permits was revealed: "one has to find a balance in issuing travel permits, also with regard to other refugees". He gave the following criteria for granting a permit: "family and friends' visits if an address is given, visits to expositions, religious activities, if they give support to the refugee". Frequency and aim of requests were also important: "I also check return movement, and we should not be naive: shop-lifting also exists". In that case, he asserted, he would not give an applicant another permission to travel to the place in question.

Schäfer, on his own accord, zealously passed on his knowledge on Cornelius Yufanyi to the Federal Office for the Acceptance of Asylum Seekers and the regional administrative court. He strongly suspected, he said in his letter to the authorities, that Mr Yufanyi was using his residency in Germany to be politically active. Also, Schäfer claimed he was only present at the asylum seekers home on the days the pocket money was being paid out. Finally, Schäfer thought it was worth mentioning that Yufanyi was often accompanied by a German student from Lower Saxony. According to the Thuringian data protection officer, almost all of these information transfers were "impermissible communications", for the lawyers, they are an aggregation of racist thought and practice.

After the interrogation, the proceedings were postponed. Yufanyi refused a closing of proceedings. He said that his aim is the abolition of the residency law, not a stop in proceedings on grounds of negligibility.

The second court case

On 24 October 2002, the second court case started in Worbis. This time, the court was able to ascertain that Cornelius Yufanyi had actually been in Jena in April 2000. Again, it was the practice of issuing "holiday certificates" which was at the centre of the hearing. According the internal documents of the foreigners authority, asylum seekers are only allowed one "holiday certificate" per month. Other "rules" for the issuing of these permits could not be established during the interrogations. A blanket definition for issuing permits would be unlawful.

Neither the public prosecutor nor the defence were satisfied with the information given by the cross-examined civil servant. For the third trial day, it was therefore initially planned to summon the then chief of the foreigners authority of the regional district of Eichsfeld, Michael Wickman, as well as a representative of the Thuringian interior ministry as witnesses. Meanwhile, Wickman is engaged in promoting the mass deportation of stateless Lebanese refugees in his function of regional MP in Northeim and proudly declared to colleagues of Cornelius Yufanyi that he had been the "architect" of the residency regulation.

The third court case

On 4 September 2003, the third and last hearing took place in Worbis. 80 people gathered for a rally and trial observation in front of the administrative court. The presiding judge at this hearing, however, had not invited representatives from the interior ministry or Wickman. She had not thought their interrogation necessary. The defence started the hearing by lodging an application for a stop of proceedings and a referral to the Federal Constitutional Court. The court refused this with the justification that in an earlier ruling, the Constitutional Court had deemed the residency regulation constitutional.
After Cornelius was interrogated, his lawyers demanded his acquittal. They argued that the unlawful travel to Jena had been a "case of emergency"
because although he could have appealed to a travel ban, it would have taken too long to guarantee his attendance at the conference.

The trial ended with a fine of 150 Euros for Cornelius. In her reasoning for the judgment, the judge said she could not identify the claimed emergency. An emergency would only exist, she argued, if there was a danger to life, physical integrity or freedom. Freedom, she said, was the freedom given to a person by the state. Although his motivations were respectable, Cornelius would have to fight the law politically, the judge held. The lawyers announced they would appeal against the decision and declared their intentions to go the European Court of Justice if necessary.


Meanwhile, Cornelius' case, together with that of Sunny Omwenyeke, has indeed been lodged with the European Court of Justice. A decision, however, will take several years. By then, the residency regulation will continue to be implemented, with the aim of isolating and excluding refugees from social life in Germany.

An arrest warrant has been issued against Cornelius Yufanyi because he continues to refuse to pay for his right to freedom of movement. He is not the first to go to prison for this right. Sunny Omwenyeke has already been imprisoned for the same reason. Just like Yufanyi, he did not have permission to travel to the refugee conference in Jena. In December 2004, he started serving his prison sentence (instead of paying a fine). On 4 April 2005, Momodou Barrow was imprisoned in the JVA-Rottenburg for having violated the residency regulation several times.

Already during the colonial period, German tried to control and restrict the free movement of the colonised. Then, the colonies introduced a so-called "natives register" and a "passport" (in form of a tin chip). "Because each passport is only valid in one district and marked by correlating serial numbers, it was possible to ascertain at any given time if Africans had left their borough or district. If they wanted to leave legally - for a limited time period - they had to apply for a passport from the relevant police station. At the travel destination they had to get a confirmation of their time of arrival. The intention of this consistent surveillance was to deny the colonised freedom of movement". (from: Lawful injustice, p. 139*). One of the former colonies in which this law applied is Cameroon, Cornelius Yufanyi's country of origin. It is high time that the residency regulation and any other exceptional laws discriminating against refugees are abolished!

Contact: Cornelius Yufanyi, Mobile: 0049 (0) 170 87 88 124

The campaign against the residency regulation and the support campaign for Cornelius Yufanyi are still in need of donations:

The Voice Refugee Forum
Account nr: 127 829
BLZ 260 500 01
IBAN: DE97 2605 0001 000 1278 29
Bank name: Sparkasse Göttingen
Subject: Residenzpflicht Cornelius

for more information see:
or search for "Cornelius Yufanyi"

* Jürgen Zimmerer (2005) 'Deutscher Rassenstaat in Afrika. Ordnung, Entwicklung und Segregation in "Deutsch-Südwest" (1884-1915)' [The German race state in Africa. Order, development and segregation in "German South-West" (1884-1914)] in Brumlik, Meinl & Renz (eds.) Gesetzliches Unrecht Rassistisches Recht im 20. Jahrhundert. Jahrbuch 2005 zur Geschichte und Wirkung des Holocaust. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main.

Förderverein The VOICE e.V. Göttingen, Geismarlandstr. 19 37083 Göttingen
Tel.: +49 (0)551/58892 Fax: +49 (0)551/58898
Göttingen, 26.10.2005
Bankverbindung: Kto.Nr.: 127 829, BLZ: 260 500 01, Sparkasse Göttingen
Göttinger Arbeitskreis zur Unterstützung
von Asylsuchenden e.V.
Geismarlandstr. 19, 37083 Göttingen
Tel.: +49 (0)551/58894
Fax: +49 (0)551/58898"

Filed 30 December 2005

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