WelcomeCamp connects refugee media makers

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) registered more than 185,000 asylum seekers last year, with one quarter of the German population having a migration history. Nevertheless, the cultural diversity and the perspective of refugees in society and politics seems underrepresented: For just eight percent of the members of parliament should come from immigrant families, with media makers, the proportion is a maximum of three percent, according to a press release of the WelcomeCamps.

This is exactly what the initiative, which is taking place in Berlin this year for the third time in a row, wants to change that. The Barcamp for Welcome Culture, hosted by Face Show! e.V. wants to foster dialogue by linking refugees with media professionals, charitable institutions and multipliers. In addition, the organizers want to take action against hate in the network and give a voice to people with a migration background, free of prejudices and independent of filter bubbles. LEAD spoke with Bastian Koch, one of the founders of the camp.

LEAD: “Looking Forward “is the motto of this year’s WelcomeCamp. Then let us look ahead: Does Germany have until 2025 an actually functioning, integrative welcome culture?


Bastian Koch: I hope it does not take that long. And to be honest: we are not that far away – at least socially. Over the past three years, I have been able to meet so many helpers and initiatives that are committed to a cosmopolitan society that I am not afraid of. The opponents of integration may be loud but definitely outnumbered.

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WelcomeCamp founder Bastian Koch (Photo: Florian Lutz)

And that can clarify the event?

Koch: Exactly. “We are many” has been something of the unofficial motto since the first camp two years ago, and our response to the “we are the people” cries that evoke not the community but the very opposite. Our camp offers participants the chance to assure themselves of their positions and to use the event as an amplifier, indeed speaker for the good cause.

Also in the social networks?

Cook: Yes. The WelcomeCamp takes place this year as part of the project Media Residents. A network for refugee media makers or people with a background in publishing. This includes a coworking space, technology for media production and workshops for the transfer of know-how.

“The anonymous applause is the real fuel.”
WelcomeCamp co-founder Bastian Koch

Why are new media often full of brown hate and hatred?

Koch: Because it works. It has often been and is formulated that the brutalization in the digital language is due to anonymity. But whoever claims this has not really had to deal with hate speech or deal with it. Fewest hate comments are anonymous, the senders boast in their groups and even publicly for their verbal attacks. The resulting and often anonymous applause is the real fuel.

How can you counteract this?

Koch: It would be too easy to blame alone for the operators of social networks or politics. Although the filter bubbles provoked by the algorithms and the non-existent, uniform case law beyond national borders are a problem, we all have one voice, especially in the so-called new media, and should use it as well. Initiatives like #ichbinhier and Reconquista Internet are moving forward here, but also in the digital and analogue circle of friends, one may stand up for basic rights and against insults.

What kind of networks should you use? WelcomeCamp arise?

Koch: From the first WelcomeCamp, a monthly meet-up has been set up, which monothematically presents two to four initiatives in order to accelerate cooperation and gain supporters outside of their own bubble. This year, I could imagine a multicultural platform that realistically presents the perspectives of refugees and helpers, encouraging undecided people to get involved on a small or big scale. The necessary skills are definitely available in the field of participants.

How does the economy absorb your project?

Koch: We have received a lot of support for the idea in recent years. For many companies, the WelcomeCamp is an opportunity to get involved, and above all visibly. We very much welcome this, even if the commitment is limited to one day. However, we are not a platform for the placement of training or jobs, there are other and very successful players.

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    (Photos: Andi Weiland / WelcomeCamp 2017)
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    (Photos: Andi Weiland / WelcomeCamp 2017)
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    (Photos: Andi Weiland / WelcomeCamp 2017)
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    (Photos: Andi Weiland / WelcomeCamp 2017)

To be absolutely politically correct in terms of terminology about people fleeing is sometimes a challenge for journalists …

Koch: I’m not an expert on political correctness, but terms like refugees, refugees, newcomers are not uncontroversial in the Persian and Arab communities either. It is about openness and contact at eye level. In addition: No human wants to be reduced to its origin or the cause of its flight. The biographies including the interests and experiences should be respected and perceived in their diversity.

Are there any German media out there that can do that?

Koch: Many media workers in exile are now working freely or collectively in publications. Amal Berlin, Eed be Eed, the refugee magazine and many more. Classic German media can and should take an example from the international editorial offices and be inspired by them.

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