|Patrick holding out a coupon|
Standing in a Supermakrt in Henningsdorf is Patrick Kizito waiting to pay for the bread, juice and milk in his shopping trolley. Unlike the rest, he doesn’t pay for his shopping with cash but with a blue green coupon. Like all other Asylum seekers in the county of Oberhavel, Patrick gets all his welfare from the State paid out using coupons. The coupons can only pay for specific items (picked out by the administrators) in specific stores. Patrick has been fighting for the right of Asylum seekers to be given cash instead of coupons but with no success.
The 31 year old Patrick came to Germany about 3yrs ago. In Kenya he had worked as a driver for a militia group, and when he wanted to leave, they wouldn’t let him as he knew too much about the group. His father was murdered and he decided to flee. His asylum application in Germany was denied and leaving him with the “Duldung” status. Duldung that loosely translates to “Tolerance”. ” The Duldung is extended only by a month, or 2 weeks or even a day”, Patrick explains.
Although his fate isn’t set nor his status permanent, he continues to fight for the rights of Asylum seekers. For close to 2 years, he has been fighting together with some of his friends for the right to get cash instead of coupons.
The decision on whether to hand out cash or coupons lies in the counties (Landkreis) or in the cities with no counties (kreisfreien Städten). In Brandenburg most counties hand out cash apart from Oberhavel, Oberspreewald-Lausitz and Havelland.
Patrick currently receives €130 in cash and €180 in coupons. The coupons can only be used in specific supermarkets. When he wants to cook something from his homeland, he needs ingredients from the Afroshop in Berlin but the Afroshop doesn’t accept the coupons. With the coupons he can’t pay for cigarettes, lawyer’s fee, calling cards, tobacco or even toys.
“Only for food, hygienic articles, stationery, cleaning items, cheap furniture, clothing and shoes” is written in bold on the coupon. Only 10% worth of the coupon can be paid out. The coupons expire monthly so there’s no chance to save.
Patrick has organized several demonstrations against the coupons; winning him the “Band für Mut und Verständigung” ( Ribbon for courage and Understanding) which was awarded to him by the Minister Matthias Platzeck(SPD).
Most Asylum organizations and politicians agree that the coupons should be done away with.
” Using coupons is one of the methods used in Brandenburg to segregate refugees”, Simone Tetzlaff from the Asylum SeekersÄ Counselling service in Henningsdorf said.
Most people see no problem with Asylum seekers getting the cash instead of coupons, the SPD Minister Günter Baaske said in 2011, “All counties and cities with no counties handing out cash to asylum seekers were working in accordance to the law”. Baaske expressed that he wished all asylum seekers got money and not coupons, assing that using coupons was too expensive and discriminatory.
In Henningsdorf they have developped some form of barter trade where the supporters of the asylum seekers go shopping with them, pay with the coupon and hand over the cash to the aslyum seeker. Patrick thinks this won’t work in the long run as many of the aslyum seekers in Henningsdorf are already fighting on who gets to exchange their coupons for money with the supporters and how often.
Patrick hopes his struggle will pay off in the end even if by then he won’t be allowed to be in Germany.