Asylum in Germany: Refugee accommodation wanted
Status: 11/20/2021 8:37 a.m.
The number of refugee accommodation has been reduced in recent years. Now more asylum seekers are coming again – but the facilities may not be fully occupied due to Corona.
By Thomas Denzel, SWR Stuttgart
A truck is about to be unloaded in the yard of a company in Ulm. When the employees open the trailer, four young men jump towards them. You come from Afghanistan and have already been driving the van through Eastern Europe for four days, unnoticed by the driver.
Cases like this are increasing: more people are coming to Germany and looking for asylum there. Most are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. 131,973 applications had been made by October, which is already more than in the whole of 2020. At the moment, the Federal Police are frequently picking up people who are entering illegally via Belarus. 9673 have been there since August alone, it says there, in the months January to July, however, only a total of 26.
Corona pandemic complicates the situation
However, Germany is still a long way from a situation like in 2015 and 2016. In 2016, more than five times as many people applied for asylum. Nevertheless, the new increase is causing difficulties for states and municipalities.
In Baden-Württemberg, for example, there are 6300 places in the state initial reception centers, but due to the pandemic, they only want to occupy 4,700 here. All residents must first be in quarantine after their arrival and are only allowed to have contact with people who arrived on the same day. “That presents us with great challenges, for example we have to offer separate sanitary facilities for the groups to be separated,” explains the responsible state minister of justice, Marion Gentges (CDU). Actually, they only wanted to use the facilities up to a maximum of 60 percent.
“We are now at 74 percent, because that’s the only way we can accommodate everyone,” says the minister. “But that means that we have to take a higher risk of infection now.”
Accomodate asylum seekers faster
Because the initial reception centers are tight, asylum seekers are relocated to the rural districts earlier. This normally only happens after about three months, now it is often faster. The districts, however, find it similarly difficult to accommodate asylum seekers.
“We can still manage November,” says Diana Raedler, who heads the migration department in the Ravensburg district office. “We will probably not be able to accept anyone in December.” In 2015 they had a total of 1,700 regular places in the Ravensburg district and an additional 992 in emergency shelters. After the great refugee movement subsided, however, the state government asked the districts to reduce the number of accommodations again in 2017.
“Maintaining it would have been an immense burden on taxpayers,” says Diana Raedler. “It is an art to find the right amount. In retrospect, the dismantling was probably too radical.” Today the Ravensburg district only has accommodations for 477 asylum seekers.
Willingness of the population to help lower
Housing is not the only problem, however: Additional social workers and other carers have to be found at short notice – and there is also a lack of volunteer helpers.
“The enthusiasm in the population is not as great today as it was in 2015,” is Diana Raedler’s impression. “There are no more welcoming parties celebrated and there are fewer people who want to volunteer.” She believes that fear of corona infection sometimes plays a role. Often, however, after years of voluntary work, “the air is simply blown out”.
Resistance to reactivation
The state government is trying to expand the initial reception facilities and thus ensure relaxation. At least 1,600 additional places will be required by the end of the year. So far, only 930 of them have been secured, says Minister Marion Gentges.
Reactivating the buildings used in 2015 sometimes turns out to be difficult. In Meßstetten, for example, a former Bundeswehr site was still used for asylum seekers a few years ago. But now an industrial and commercial park is planned there.
Wanting to accommodate refugees there again meets with resistance from the local District Administrator Günther-Martin Pauli (CDU). He expects from the state “that it fulfills its obligation and supports the city of Meßstetten in their efforts to re-use the site and does not interfere”.
Hotel rooms and hostels as an emergency solution
Marion Gentges has therefore had inquiries in various directions: Her ministry is trying to rent hotel rooms, they are talking to youth hostels and asking churches and the railways about usable real estate.
If all of this is not enough, it may be necessary to set up emergency shelters. Then there could be similar images as in 2015: people who have to live in sports halls or container villages. And that despite the fact that the number of asylum seekers is much lower today.