Migrant shelters are filling up across Germany as attitudes towards new arrivals harden

BERLIN (AP) — Dozens of people from around the world lined up on a sunny morning this week outside a former mental health hospital in Berlin to apply for asylum in Germany.

There were two old women from Moldova. A young man from Somalia sat next to them on one of the seats. A group of five young Pakistanis spoke loudly as they stood behind two pregnant women from Vietnam.

The new arrivals are among more than 10,000 migrants who have applied for asylum in the German capital this year, and they come at a time when there are not enough places to accommodate them in Berlin.

“The situation is not very good at the moment,” Sascha Langenbach, spokesman for the State Office for Refugees in Berlin, said in an interview this week. “This is much more than we expected last year.”

The former mental health hospital in Berlin’s Reinickendorf district was converted into the city’s asylum seeker registration center in 2019 and can accommodate up to 1,000 migrants.

But it’s full.

Officials have placed 80 additional beds in the building’s church. Moreover, there are 100 other refugee shelters in Berlin, but they are also full.

The Berlin state government said it would open a hangar at the former Tempelhof airport to make room for migrants, erect a large tent at an asylum-seeker registration centre, and open a former hardware store, hotels and a hostel in the city to accommodate another 5,500 people. Beds for more migrants the city expects to be available through the end of the year.

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There are also not enough places in kindergartens and schools. In addition to asylum seekers, Berlin also received 11,000 others Ukrainian refugees This year he fled the war in Russia.

The lack of space and money for Ukrainian migrants and refugees is not limited to Berlin. that it A problem throughout Germanywith local and state officials unsuccessfully demanding more money from the federal government.

More than 220,000 people applied for asylum in Germany between January and August, most of them from Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, Moldova and Georgia. And in the whole of 2022, 240,000 people applied for asylum in Germany.

This is a far cry from over a million people Who arrived in Germany in 2015-16. But Germany has also taken in more than a million Ukrainians since the outbreak of war in 2022. Unlike others who arrive, Ukrainians immediately receive residency status in Germany and the other 26 EU countries.

while The Germans welcomed asylum seekers With flowers, chocolates and toys when they first arrived in 2015, many opened their homes Ukrainians in 2022 The mood towards newcomers has changed profoundly since then.

“After two years of the (coronavirus) crisis, and then the Ukraine war with the prices of basically everything rising – heating and gas, but also food – it is sometimes difficult to convince people that they have to share places and capacities with people who have just arrived,” Langenbach said.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has succeeded in exploiting Germans’ hard-line attitudes towards immigrants. Opinion polls now place him in second place nationally with about 21%, much higher than the 10.3% he won during the presidential election. Recent federal elections In 2021.

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The rise of the Alternative for Germany party in the opinion polls The party leaders’ persistent anti-immigrant rhetoric, including calls to close Germany’s borders to prevent migrants from entering, has put pressure on the national and state governments. Other major parties To toughen its approach towards immigrants.

The German Interior Minister announced on Wednesday Country will increase border controls along ‘smuggling routes’ With Poland and the Czech Republic to prevent illegal immigrants from entering.

in June, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz The European Commission has defended plans to bar migrants from entering the EU altogether until their chances of obtaining asylum are reviewed, arguing that the bloc’s current arrangements on sharing the burden of asylum seekers between different European countries are “completely dysfunctional”.

Germany has received more immigrants than most other European countries, but others like it turkey And LebanonIt has received millions of migrants from Syria, and has received a larger number of refugees as a percentage of its population.

Although sentiment towards migrants in Germany has changed, those who succeed and apply for asylum are generally grateful to be here.

Abdullah Al-Shuwaiti, from the Syrian city of Homs, recently arrived in Berlin and was awaiting the results of his medical examination at the refugee reception centre. He said he felt relieved to be “in a safe place.”

The 29-year-old said he fled home because his family’s home was bombed in the war and he did not want to fight in the army. He said that he paid 3,000 euros ($3,180) to the smugglers who helped him cross from Lebanon to Europe. He took the Balkan route, trekking with other young Syrians north through Bulgaria through the forests. They traveled on foot, taxis and buses until smugglers dropped them off in the German capital.

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Merbecan Gurhan, a Kurdish man from Bingöl in eastern Turkey, said he fled repression by Turkish authorities. He paid 6,000 euros ($6,360) to smugglers to arrange a flight from Ankara to Belgrade in Serbia, then a car to Germany.

“I hope I have a better future here. I hope I can find a job,” the 24-year-old said with a shy smile as his uncle, who applied for asylum in Berlin four years ago, stood next to him and translated.

Michael Elias, head of Tamaga, which runs the asylum registration center in Berlin, said the arrival of migrants from all over the world is simply a reflection of the many crises around the world, such as climate change and wars, and that Germany needs to prepare for the arrival of more people.

“Yes, a lot of people come here, but look at what is happening in the world,” Elias said. “We simply have to expect that we are not the island of the lucky ones here, and that things will come to us as well.”


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