Paperwork vs. real war: What is actually the point of a cross of merit on a ribbon?

Civil society organizations provide pragmatic, solution-oriented and, above all, humanitarian aid.

Paperwork vs. real war: What is actually the point of a cross of merit on a ribbon?

Civil society organizations provide pragmatic, solution-oriented and, above all, humanitarian aid. There are warm words, awards and medals from politics. Everything - just no support. Andreas Toelke from the association "Be an Angel e.V." never complains, but thinks about returning his Federal Cross of Merit. A situation report.

Conclusion after more than eight months in the war in Ukraine: We have received news from the "Crisis Unit Ukraine" of the Foreign Ministry, including proactively expressed offers of talks with concrete appointment offers - but after that - nothing happens. Organizations like us are decorative items for politics, which you might take out of the showcase to document that "the population" upholds the values ​​that make up democracy and humanity. But please don't also provide pragmatic input or expect support afterwards. It is a parallel world of administrative processes to which a tanker, which happens to be a ministry, cannot react realistically. Or want.

We also experienced this at state level in Berlin: When the war broke out, a zoom meeting took place with the new Senator Katja Kipping and her team. Invited: The voluntary organizations that were already active in 2015. 2015 - we remember, the dysfunctional LaGeSo, led by Mario Czaja, went through the international media as a prime example of failure. Although Czaja hired McKinsey as a consultant for hundreds of thousands of euros, in the autumn and winter he was not even able to provide the refugees with a warm place to stay during the days of waiting in front of the registration authority. Incidentally, Mario Czaja is now Secretary General of the CDU under the former “Black Rock” advisor Merz. Oh yes: "Black Rock" and "McKinsey" are identical companies that are colloquially referred to as "locusts". Without the wake-up call from "Moabit helps", which was the first initiative to be active at LaGeSo, the whole thing would have ended in an even greater catastrophe in 2015.

Back to the zoom with the senator: In view of the thousands of refugees expected, the initiatives that set up structures in every Berlin neighborhood in 2015/16 in order to support refugees quickly have pragmatic suggestions for structuring everything from "Arrive at the main train station" to "Accommodation wherever always". And asked to let the responsibilities pass to the initiatives. Result: An overnight platform, commissioned by the Senate, which collapsed and at the peak of which tens of thousands of sleeping places languished as data without access for refugees. The volunteers were then able to deal with the frustration of the private hosts in direct contact. The Senate organization at the main station ended in chaos, only then were the initiatives allowed to take over - and lo and behold: it worked.

At the international level, the state structure of failure is congruent. "Be an Angel" has been active in Moldova in Ukraine for over eight months. The small country with 2.4 million inhabitants is one of the poorest in Europe and is a direct neighbor of Ukraine in the south. In the first three weeks of the war alone, 360,000 Ukrainians fled to Moldova. Gymnasiums, camp beds, a supply of food that doesn't deserve the name, and medical care at the level of emergency aid were and are the consequence. Til today. And Moldova's government is not to blame. Here, the interaction between politics and civil society worked out of the box. Volunteers from "Moldova pentru Pace" (Moldova for Peace) were on duty everywhere - including politicians. The head of the crisis team, Colonel Adrian Efros, was focused and engaging from day one.

After Be an Angel had been active for four weeks, UNHCR began its activities. An employee once said underhandedly: "We are a bulldozer. We come to a country in crisis and take over state functions. As a rule, governments in such countries no longer have a chance." So also in Moldova. This is conditional criticism. The UNHCR has successfully initiated the disbursement program for financial support for Ukrainian refugees, operates the bus transfer from the Ukrainian-Moldovan border to Romania, and is extremely committed against people smuggling and forced prostitution. But the UNHCR is also a tanker. For a donation-financed organization like "Be an Angel" this means that we operate across borders and have evacuated over 18,000 people to date. From Ukraine to Moldova and (as long as it was financially possible) on to the EU - preferably Austria, Germany. At the end of our donations we were so naïve to believe that it was in the spirit of the UNHCR to relieve Moldova and support the evacuations financially. Big mistake!

Our attempt to talk to the Foreign Ministry's "Crisis Unit Ukraine" failed (see above). We've been ghosted for over four weeks. Mails with inquiries or information, which certainly go into larger groups, calls and WhatsApp messages are ignored.

Review: On December 3, 2021, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier honored 15 citizens in Bellevue Palace for their "commitment to the immigration society". Among them was the board of directors of "Be an Angel", myself. I was awarded the Cross of Merit with Ribbon. Much more is not possible. In reality, however, it is no more than a brooch. If you still think at the award ceremony: 'The asylum laws have eroded over six years to the detriment of the refugees - under these circumstances one can even speak of an "immigration society". ?" But then think hopefully: 'This award will open doors, so bring it on.'

An experience that we share with many volunteers. However, certificates and medals are as sustainable as an aluminum can. In fact, "Be an Angel" (confirmed by the Moldovan Crisis Center) is the most sustainable private NGO in the country and in southern Ukraine. Now the German embassy could come up with the crazy idea of ​​documenting with NGOs how Germans are on the side of Ukraine and Moldova. In practice, in April, the "Be an Angel" team was radioed almost frantically that an evacuation flight from the embassy on State Department orders did not have enough passengers. "Be an Angel" brings almost 200 Ukrainians stranded in Moldova to the check-in, so to speak ad hoc, so that the state minister who receives them in Germany has something to celebrate in front of the assembled press.

Thanks to our help, the flight was fully occupied. And not once has our name been mentioned in any statements, on social media or other platforms. Why are we so keen on it? The mention of a ministry is an official recognition of our work, relieving donors of uncertainty as to whether we are the right address for their hard-earned money. The evacuation flights, initiated after Foreign Minister Baerbock's commitment in March 2022, had brought 954 people from Ukraine to safety by November. Minister Baerbock promised 2,500 Ukrainians from Moldova to be admitted. It didn't work out, so let's do it. On November 7th and 8th, the first two flights left the airport of the capital Chisinau. In cooperation with "Flug-Ambulanz e.V." 62 people from Düsseldorf were on board. Mostly children with their mothers. Most children with diagnoses ranging from autism to untreated eye conditions. Sometimes we evacuated the children from the Ukraine a few days before to take them to the plane. Everything went smoothly.

Until arrival, when German authorities came into play. After that, chaos broke out. Autism as a clinical picture among refugee children seems to be completely overwhelmed. Appropriate accommodation for "vulnerable people", as people with special needs are called, is virtually impossible. And: yes, we sent passenger lists with diagnoses to the receiving authorities in advance.

It is not our intention to present employees in the authorities here. Among them are people who are incredibly committed - but fail even because of structures. However, what really gets us down is structural sluggishness. And that a benchmark is applied to us to act in accordance with all imaginable and unimaginable administrative regulations and corresponding forms, which ministries and offices themselves do not comply with.

Our team has been in action since the beginning of the war. Sometimes at risk of death, often day and night. The results speak for themselves. And have not cost the taxpayer a cent to this day. But on the contrary. The people from the Ukraine are fleeing to Germany without us. We try to enable them to escape safely and with dignity. However, no embassy or ministry takes our dignity into consideration. Where can you actually give back your Federal Cross of Merit? Dear Federal President Steinmeier, do you have time soon? If so, we would like to do the reversal personally. If you don't want that: Consistently support civil society organizations. And please tell those responsible in the state apparatus: We are part of the solution, not the problem.

Frustrated? no We perceive everything and still keep going!

More information and donation options: Be an Angel e.V.

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