Abu Ghraib in Burbach

UPDATE at end of post.

It is not difficult to imagine that another Hitler could arise somewhere in the world. Demagoguery allied to unfulfilled aspirations of the majority and an identifiable minority to be blamed could well lead to history repeating itself. The barbarism that humans are still capable of – demonstrated so well in the Middle East – could easily be harnessed by some new prophetic demagogue. There are some in Europe (especially Eastern Europe) who still believe that the Roma are not to be considered human. There are still those who think that Africans or Muslims or tribal peoples are not human. One would expect though that if another Hitler could rise again it would only happen far away from Germany. There is still a sense of collective shame and regret – in my opinion from my time living there – that ordinary people turned a blind eye then to the vicious goings on that they may have suspected but did not want to see.

When Abu Ghraib and the animal-like behaviour of supposedly well-trained US troops came to light it was put down to a few rotten apples and the world moved on. It was after all a theatre of war we were told. But the idea that some humans could be classified by other humans as being non-human is still possible – even in Germany. The urge to abuse, hurt and humiliate the “others” seems to lie well within the behavioural envelope of modern humans. Even now and even with Hitler in their history, in the pretty little town of Burbach in the western part of Germany.

Gewalt auf Flüchtlinge

Germany’s Abu Ghraib in Burbach — Deutsche Welle

Deutsche Welle:

German authorities are investigating at least two male security staff for apparent abuse of asylum seekers in their care in a special housing facility in Burbach. The suspects filmed and photographed their own actions on their mobile phones, investigators released one such image to the press on Sunday.

“These are pictures that most of us would associate with Guantanamo Bay,” said the police chief in nearby Hagen, Frank Richter, referring to the US prison camp in Cuba. “Both security guards are grinning.”

In the photo, an asylum seeker is shown lying on the floor, the boot of one man pinning his neck down. Another colleague is knelt beside the victim, seemingly posing for the camera. Some drew parallels with the images of US soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners at the British Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004. …..

The senior public prosecutor in nearby Siegen, Johannes Daheim, described one of the videos as disturbing. “There, a man is sitting on a filthy mattress covered in vomit, and is forced to lie down,” Daheim said. “It’s disturbing, when one imagines that these people have come to us from other countries, having already suffered from violence. They are seeking protection here, and are then subjected to such a situation. This only serves to worsen their trauma.” …..

WDR reported that the suspects worked for a private security company called European Homecare, one of the main operators of asylum seeker facilities in Germany.

This behaviour is not unique to Germany.

It also seems that when detention and imprisonment and deportations and the like are outsourced to private companies – where the key performance indicator is the throughput of human bodies – there is a greater possibility of such behaviour surfacing. For example, private security companies in the UK also run prisons and detention facilities and have also been accused of mistreating and humiliating detainees. Private companies running elderly healthcare have also come in for criticism. European Homecare is a family run company operating in Germany, Austria and Ireland and is even in receipt of some EU funds. They make a great thing about their values (no doubt written by a PR person) which now ring a little hollow:

The focus of our services are people in difficult circumstances who rely on our social, management and intercultural competence. In close collaboration with public as well as private institutions (NGOs and support groups) European Homecare provides social and facility management services to facilitate the daily life of people in need.


It would seems to a sub-contractor (SKI Security) to the contractor (European Homecare) which is implicated at Burbach and also in incidents at an asylum centre in Essen

The Local:

……. TV broadcaster Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR) reported on a further case of violence against another asylum seeker at a reception centre in Essen. Investigations have started there into three allegations of grevious bodily harm.

Journalists said that they had a copy of a medical report detailing the man’s injuries. That reception centre is run by the same security firm which was in charge of the Burbach facility, Nuremberg-based firm SKI Security.

The Burbach reception centre is managed by an Essen-based firm called European Homecare which says on its website it has 20 years experience in managing accommodation for asylum seekers. European Homecare subcontracted security to SKI and police are investigating SKI employees in both Burbach and Essen.

According to WDR, two of the four security guards being investigated for abuse at the Burbach site were known to police for past offences including bodily harm and drug offences. But SKI said in a statement on Monday that all of its employees were qualified and vetted in accordance with national guidelines.

“The reported incidents are vile. We are supporting the police and prosecutors who are investigating the identified suspects,” the company said. 

European Homecare CEO Sascha Korte said on Monday the company was “concerned and shocked” that such abuses could have happened. “I’m stunned and ashamed that such assaults have taken place,” he added.


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