(By Sorin Furcoi) For more than a year, refugees and Germans have met up each week in an east Berlin neighbourhood to cook together.
A handful of volunteer cooks carry trays of meat and pots of steaming soup to tables in a church in the Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood of east Berlin.
Afghans, Syrians, Iraqis and others who came as part of the huge wave of migration to the country in recent years sit at the cafeteria tables alongside local Germans and others.
Once a week, refugees, Germans and international students and workers come here – a collective cooking project called Meet n’ Eat – to cook and eat together in the hope of building stronger bonds between their respective communities.
Zabihullah Karimi, a 31-year-old Afghan asylum seeker, says the weekly meetup has been a good opportunity for him to “meet people from different cultures and share the food of our homeland”.
Juliane Wolf, one of Meet n’ Eat’s founders, says there has also been an immensely positive response from local residents of the neighbourhood.
“[Refugees] had the camp food and very little money to go to restaurants,” she told Al Jazeera of the situation for most residents in a now-closed refugee camp where she used to volunteer.
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In 2015 and 2016, hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants entered Germany after fleeing war and economic devastation in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
Uprooted from their homelands, many refugees and migrants say the Meet n’ Eat programme and others like it provide them with opportunities to further integrate into German society. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
The local church lends the space to the group free of charge. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
Every week, a group of locals, volunteers and refugees go to the market together to plan the dishes. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
The money for the food comes from individual and church donations. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
Most weeks more than 50 people from the neighbourhood and nearby camps attend the Meet n’ Eat. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
Although food is provided in refugee camps, there is often no space for the refugees to cook or plan their own meals. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
“The idea was to find a room where they can cook and eat themselves, but also host others sometimes,” says Juliane Wolf, one of the founders of Meet n’ Eat. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
Refugees and locals say the gatherings have had a positive impact on the neighbourhood. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
“We thought it’s very important that people – refugees and Germans – just meet, for both political reasons and just for the neighbourhood,” Wolf adds. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
“This programme allows us to learn more about the culture and life in Germany, even while refugees share their own customs and ideas with German people who come to help,” explains 31-year-old Afghan asylum seeker Zabihullah Karimi. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
In recent months German authorities have increased their efforts to deport rejected asylum seekers. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]