Michael Glas
„An eternal battle“

Michael Glas, managing director of Fliederlich e.V., the gay and lesbian center in Nuremberg, opened the first sheltered accommodation for LGBT* refugees in Germany at the beginning of 2016 with his association and the city of Nuremberg. Meanwhile it has grown to two shelters with space for about 50 fugitives. In an interview, he tells how, by chance and with a lot of initiative, he created a sheltered home.

What was the personal trigger for you to create a sheltered accommodation?
At the end of 2015, two young men from northern Iraq came to us. These were two gay men who were afraid of being discriminated against by fellow countrymen in their shared accommodation. And the two were not the only fugitives with this concern. More and more LGBT* fugitives came to us and asked us: How can I prepare for my asylum procedure? And: Where can I stay without being condemned or even attacked by compatriots? This happened without us having made any big advertisement for our offer.

What do LGBT* refugees experience in regular shelters?
It starts with fears, how the own compatriots in the Stammunterkunft react, if they learn of the sexual orientation of their fellow inhabitants. This is already a relatively strong psychological burden, and one also has to become active. It continues with discriminatory remarks, insults and even actual assaults. Luckily, we didn't have many, but nevertheless a few incidents. This gave rise to the idea of a shelter.

Then how did the first shelter come about?
That was a pure coincidence. By chance, I met an old acquaintance in Nuremberg, and we chatted a little. He told me that he no longer lived in Nuremberg. Then I remembered that he and his wife owned a small commercial building in which they also had their apartment. So, I asked him “What about the house – what state is it in?” It turned out it was empty. We then agreed relatively quickly that he would rent us the building for the accommodation of fugitives. We jumped on the chance and said, "Yes, we'll do it!"

Was there also any risk you took?
Our main risk was that we only turned to the city authorities after we had the contract, but we ran down open doors there because the city already had the issue on their radar. We then reached an agreement with them relatively quickly. After that we signed a contract that we could accommodate people and get financial compensation.

Changing accommodation is not always easy. What happened in the case of the shelter?
Thanks to good contacts with the responsible municipal authority in Nuremberg, we were able to fully occupy the accommodation within four to six weeks. The big advantage was that the affected refugees had already been assigned to the city of Nuremberg by the government and had therefore been accommodated in other large city accommodations. Therefore, the government of Mittelfranken was not involved.

How is it ensured that the people in the shelters are actually protected?
There are no big signs on the outside identifying the accommodations and the organizers have not publicly released the address. However, we found that the residents were not always so circumspect in this respect. Fortunately, there have been no problems with homophobic attacks, so far.

What improvements would you like to see in terms of shelters?
The biggest problem is that we are no longer assigned refugees. If I define the group LGBT* people as a particularly vulnerable group, for whose accommodation there are legal minimum standards from the Federal Family Ministry, then many more people would need a place in a shelter. In Bavaria, however, there are such shelters in only two or three cities. Incidents like this recent one makes no sense: A lesbian woman was moved from Nuremberg, where there are sheltered accommodations, to an accommodation in Krumbach in Swabia where with the exception of her roommate, only men are accommodated. This is just a catastrophe! Based on such examples, we state our political demand to the state government: One cannot always just make the municipalities carry the sole responsibility to create and provide the appropriate sheltered accommodation. You can't just say, "Dear Community, make that happen out of your budget." The federal government could also establish such shelters in Bavarian cities, but then the government would also have to finance them directly. In any case, it is imperative that LGBT* refugees are assigned to respective cities with appropriate sheltered accommodations - without any problems and eternal battles!

Text & interview: Leonie Hudelmaier
Illustration: Franziska Romana