A visit of the German President Joachim Gauck, the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the IB Refugee Home in Berlin-Marienfelde were part of "the Elders" programme under the leadership of Kofi Annan from 12-13 September 2016. The former UN Secretary General is the Chairman of the organization The Elders founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007. The Association campaigns for peace and human rights worldwide. On his first trip to Germany Annan was accompanied by the former UN peacekeeping diplomats Martti Ahtisaari and Lakhdar Brahimi.
In Berlin Annan called on to impassionedly promote an open society and to justify the decision to welcome refugees. "I am convinced that most people’s heart is in the right place," Annan said. "The reasonable people are not yet enough standing up against the xenophobes", said the former UN secretary general.
In the IB home for refugees the Elders talked to refugees, volunteers and professional staff. They were particularly interested in the reasons that provoked the current 700 residents to flee from their home countries, how they experienced their arrival in Germany, and how they imagine their future. Amongst others, the refugees reported that it is difficult for them to get a flat and some of them therefore had to live for years in transitional homes for refugees. Kofi Annan underlined in the two-hour interview, that learning the local language and to participate in employment projects are important prerequisites for integration in the host country.
The transitional home of the IB in Berlin-Marienfelde was selected by the Elders, because it has a long and varied history. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it served as a focal point and transitional home for Germans from the German Democratic Republic who sought a new home in the western part of the country that was still divided.
Currently the transitional home for refugees is inhabited with people from many different nations, especially from Syria, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Serbia, Bosnia, Iraq and Sudan as well as many stateless refugees.
Kofi Annan praised the work of the IB in Berlin-Marienfelde and thanked all volunteers and professionals for their efforts.