By Zara Riffler
Marbec14.wordpress.com – Social welfare office in Berlin’s Wedding district: At times, hundreds of refugees queued up at the same time. The German capital is bursting at the seams. There are no more shelters. Refugees are homeless, social welfare offices are at their limits. Employees and other helpers are hard to find. The refugee management of the governing mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey, has failed completely.
Where are you sleeping tonight?” – “On the street,” a teenage girl who has fled Ukraine replies to me. Since Friday, there are no more quarters in Berlin. The capital is about to burst. And the Senate is totally failing. The social welfare offices are literally drowning in the hundreds of war refugees seeking help every day. No one in the government knows how many have arrived in Berlin so far – even if the opposite is claimed.
Police officers are standing on the tracks, roughly estimating the unmanageable number of arrivals by eye. There are no controls. Now, after almost three weeks, the first registrations are finally to take place – but only for those who travel voluntarily to the new arrival center in Tegel. It’s obvious: Berlin’s Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) is also failing in refugee management.
Suddenly, on Friday afternoon, no more shuttle buses departed from the “white tent” at the main train station, which is supposed to bring the refugees from Ukraine to accommodations in Berlin. Actually, two sleeping trains are provided, in which the people can recover in the warm after their flight journey of several days and finally sleep. But when the final shutdown of emergency shelters began on Friday, one of the two sleeping trains failed at the same time.
That same evening, four to six delayed trains arrived from Poland. The sleeper train was overcrowded, as were all possible shelters in the capital. The city government already accommodated many refugees in hotels in the last few days. But now the government did not manage to react spontaneously to the new situation and provide improvised accommodation.
On Thursday, among thousands of refugees, a young girl named Bogdana arrived in Berlin: a teenager who had fled with her grandmother and a friend. The three women had been assigned a hotel room by the city for one day. The next day, they were supposed to be taken to another shelter outside Berlin, but the bus turned back and they were all dumped back at the crowded Hautbahnhof. Where they would sleep, none of them knew.
So from one hour to the next, the Senate effectively made these three refugee women homeless twice. And this at a station where women and children are lured and kidnapped by human traffickers every day. Instead of sleeping “on the street,” they boarded trains on their own, like other refugees that evening. The destination on Friday night for these people: Munich. In the hope that there is still room for them somewhere in other cities. On the day the three women suddenly had no place to stay, Bogdana fell ill. In the meantime, she is so bad that she has to be treated by a doctor.
Deutsche Bahn forbids journalists to take photos and videos in the main station between 6 pm and 10 am. Officially, a DB press spokesman says that there is no staff stationed at the station in the evening to supervise the journalists. Is that the real reason? Or do they want to avoid unattractive pictures that document the failure of the Senate? After all, who wants press photos with refugees that the Senate has made homeless a second time – at a train station that is a target for pedophiles and human traffickers? Neither a politician in the Senate nor the federal government wants that. Above all, it’s not what Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) wants, who claimed in a BR interview yesterday that there would be no loss of control. And Deutsche Bahn also wants to avoid such recordings, on whose premises the whole political failure is taking place.
In general, “supervisors” are spread all over the station and outside, instructing the journalists several times what they are allowed to photograph and what not. In addition, it is forbidden to interview DB employees. No trace of freedom of the press. Also, some volunteers aggressively yell at journalists and threaten violence, they do not want refugees to be photographed and talked to. Many people in Berlin do not seem to understand that the war in Europe is playing out before their eyes and that this history must be documented.
Mayor Giffey fails in refugee management
Between 10,000 and 15,000 refugees from Ukraine arrive in Berlin every day. Last Tuesday, Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) had already anticipated a further increase in refugee numbers. Although the Senate is aware of the high number of people arriving, there is a lack of organization. Wolfgang, a volunteer who has been helping out at the main train station for more than two weeks, says, “It wouldn’t have worked without Tegel Airport, then Berlin would have really burst.” The old airport is, so to speak, the last reception center shaken out of its sleeve, Berlin’s very last emergency shelter. Now, however, the limit has been reached here, too. This weekend, the Tegel emergency shelter
This weekend, the emergency shelter in Tegel will become an “arrival center,” where refugees will be registered and distributed from there to other German states.
Without the mostly volunteer helpers at the main train station and the old airport, the Berlin government’s refugee management would have collapsed long ago. In the first few weeks, private non-governmental organizations and volunteers, rather than the Senate, handled the situation at the station. However, despite many hundreds of volunteers, there is now a massive lack of personnel for Tegel. That’s why soldiers have to help out. The plan: 400 employees are to distribute the refugees at over 100 registration counters according to the “Königstein Key.
In Berlin, it took almost three weeks for an organized “registration”. But it is in fact only a partial registration because it is still the case that every person who gets off a refugee train at the main station and does not continue to Tegel is neither checked nor registered. At the main station, each arriving person goes his or her own way. Officially, registrations within the 90-day period are voluntary. But all those who are currently entering Germany with criminal intentions are unlikely to register voluntarily.
Social welfare offices at the limit – no staff for refugee rush
When the number of refugees in the capital increases, it is obvious that automatically the requests for help in the social welfare offices increase. But the social welfare offices were not prepared for this rush either: Refugees have been queuing there since Wednesday. On Thursday alone, more than 1,900 Ukrainians were provided there with health insurance applications or emergency aid. In Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, the number rose to more than 300 refugees waiting outside the office in recent days. Sufficient staff to handle these masses in all twelve social welfare offices in Berlin do not currently exist.
In a fire letter to Franziska Giffey, Falko Liecke, the deputy CDU state chairman of Berlin and district councilor of Berlin-Neukölln, writes of an “administrative chaos and lack of control in the refugee crisis.” The letter complains that the districts are “completely overburdened” “in processing the high volume of cases.” Personnel needed for “important service areas” must now be withdrawn. The CDU politician suggests to Giffey to create a central supply database to distribute refugees who are currently accommodated somewhere through private housing offers. One already anticipates the next upcoming chaos in the capital.