Freifunk groups in Germany support refugees with free access and the willingness to help people who had to leave their home countries is still growing.
Many refugees have mobile phones, but no data rates. Using the a Freifunk network would make them able to contact their families at no charge. Freifunk is also one way of helping these refugees to get informed about their new home and get access to local information as well to information from their home country.
Even if some Freifunk groups had problems with local administrations in the beginning, many of them are still working on solutions for free access in refugee accommodation centres. By now, there are many projects up and running in various german cities and communities.
Arnsberg Freifunkers and the CCC have supplied a longterm facility for refugees with free internet access. Three access points were installed to create a mesh network and the internet connection runs via a backbone link to the municipal recycling station over a 2 km distance. On average all three nodes are used by more than 25 devices.
In 2014 activists in Augsburg have linked the refugee accommodation centre in Calmbergstraße. Approximatley 160 male refugees live there. Two outdoor nano stations and an indoor router have been set up.
Following a suicide in a communal housing facility in Würzburg in January 2012, and the 600 km „March For Freedom“ from Würzburg to Berlin in October, the Oranienplatz in Berlin-Kreuzberg was occupied by refugees. The square itself had no IT infrastructure. With the goal of setting up a free and independent network, Freifunkers from Berlin decided to supply the Oranienplatz with internet. The protest camp thus was suppplied with free internet access from 2012 until its evacuation in 2014.
Followed by technical issues in December 2013 the Gerhart Hauptman School was connected to a free network. 11 access points have been supplying the residents with free internet. During peak hours 2 MB/s were transmitted.
Since 2014 more and more refugees are being put into emergency housing. Usually these buildings are old gyms or container structures. Digital infrasctructure here is practically non-existent. In December – just in time for christmas – internet access was realised for the emergency accommodation at Waldschulallee with the help of the people of AFRA:
„Accommodating the refugees in emergency housing happened on short notice, but numerous donations of hardware and the swift support of Freifunk made the access to the internet before christmas possible.“ – Loofman (AFRA)
Thus people were able to contact friends and family during the holidays. The general goal is to improve the digital infrastructure in refugee accommodations. For this reason Freifunk Berlin and the Refugee Emanicpation Project will be collaborating in future.
In December 2014 a refugee facility in an old school in Dortmund was supplied with three Freifunk nodes. DOKOM21 provided DSL access. In January 2015 the activists exchanged the three devices with more powerful ones. 100 refugees in this facility gladly use this service. Several new homes will be opened in Dortmund soon. During the planing stage Freifunk contacted the carrier and because of the positive experience with the other homes may now supply all further facilities with free internet. Most devices – more than 70 routers – were donated by PING e.V.. The Pirate Party is planing to set up a desktop PC in every facility, to enable people without mobile devices, keeping contact to their families.
First contact between groups that support refugee accommodations in Erfurt have already taken place. An inspection of the facilities in near future is planned.
Right after the Freifunk Franconia reorganised, the central Bavarian reception centre for asylum seekers in Zirndorf near Nürnberg was supplied with area-wide WIFI. The local conditions had nationwide media coverage. Donated routers were installed on serveral buildings, to make internet access available for the residents. Before that, WIFI was only available in a tiny computer lab and outdoors. Unfortunatly the WIFI installation is inactive at the moment.
Freifunk Frankfurt together with the carrier provided open WIFI to a refugee home. Soon people in two other other facilites will have access to free internet. Freifunk Frankfurt is also hoping that the City of Frankfurt shows interest in further development and helps to reach more people.
In fall 2013 the situation of refugees in Hamburg became worse: 300 refugess from Libya stranded in Hamburgs streets. 80 people found a place to stay in Sankt Pauli Church – „Embassy of Hope“. In only two days, the Förderverein Freie Netzwerke e.V. collected the funds necessary to provide a WIFI network using only a few Freifunk routers within the compound of the church. The pastor and the youth centre shared their internet access with the refugees. The Humanist Lab donated two computers. The setup enabled the refugees to reestablish contact to their friends and families.
„It was wonderful to see the residents beeing happy about the new possibilities. Especially getting news from their families back home or just about the african Champions League. Due to the support of the employees of the church, getting everything installed was easy and uncomplicated.“ – Rainer Sax, Humanist Lab
All this was the starting point for a stronger social network in St. Pauli.
Container homes have been set up on the Schwarzenbergplatz in Hamburg-Harburg for several hundred refugees at the end of 2014. A local neighbour and Freifunker installed a router with a section antenna in his window and enabled up to 35 people using the WIFI simultaneously. Meanwhile a further routers have been set up and WIFI can now be accessed on most of the square.
Currently a ship is being prepared for accommodating 250 refugees. To make it possible for them to contact their friends and families abroad, the free WIFI connection of the nearby Kulturkran will be extended with further uplinks and access points. A cooperation of different companies and associations was launched to support Freifunk with router sites and providing internet uplinks.
The first refugee accommodation was supplied with a Freifunk network in December 2014. Several Freifunk nodes were installed on the premises in agreement with the relief organisation Malteser Hilfswerk. With this setup more than 40 people can keep up to date on world affairs and keep in contact with their friends and families. Internet access is provided by the neighbouring cultural centre PENG. In addition to that, Freifunkers in Mainz are working on a new backbone: a relay system to increase bandwith. On December, 3rd 2014 the decision was made, that Freifunk is allowed to be setup at the refugee accommodations.
In the district Körbecke of the community of Möhnesee a Freifunk network has been set up in the town centre. A remote mesh network supports the routers near refugee accommodations. The network is accessed by more than 10 devices simultaneously.
The catholic church in Holtheim came up with the idea, to supply the nearby refugee accommodation with Internet via Freifunk. The neccessary hardware is already ordered and will be put in place as soon as possible. The church community will bear a part of the costs.
In a housing facility of the organisation “AWO” approximatly 160, mostly refugee families with small children, found a place to stay. Both buildings have been provided with two routers by local activists. As access is not yet active the installation has not yet been completed.
First contact has also been made to a housing facility in Nürtingen, near Stuttgart. As there is no access to the internet at the moment the only way is an offer to donate an access, through which the facility can be provided with internet.
Thank you all for making this possible!
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