FuGeeLa: Refugees in Berlin #7

Photo by Metropolico on Flickr
Photo by Metropolico on Flickr

Every week we hear news about the situation of refugees in Berlin. Here’s a summary of what’s been happening in the last days and how you can help. This is the English version of an article in cooperation with Mit Vergnügen, hier kannst du ihn auf Deutsch lesen.

Number of the week

7.000 | That’s how many refugees are still waiting for registration or to receive their benefits – on top of those arriving every week. Social senator Mario Czaja is still denying any wrongdoing, and announced a new office especially for refugees to be able to handle the situation.

How’s the situation at the registration office, LaGeSo?

The office was mostly closed during the holidays and has been open again since Monday. However, despite the many promises of improvements by Czaja and the senate, people had to wait outside or in badly heated tents in the past days. Photographer Martin Gommel took some pictures.

There will be a couple of alterations in the bureaucratic handling, says Tagesspiegel. Refugees are supposed to receive a Gesundheitskarte, that will replace the temporary health insurance certificates and allow them to directly visit a doctor. Furthermore, registered refugees will receive a money card to be able to draw their monthly benefits. Czaja wants to finally reduce the bureaucratic hassle by starting to manage certain aspects digitally.

Furthermore, Czaja recruited former staff of the German post, and will continue to hire staff for LaGeSo.

What’s the government of Berlin doing?

Blaming each other for their collective failings. CSU general secretary, Andreas Scheuer, (usually responsible for his election district Passau in Bavaria), now stated that the one to blame is the reigning governor Michael Müller (SPD).

Meanwhile, Berlin is still desperately looking for new shelters. Modular homes are supposed to be built in 60 locations for up to 25.000 people to finally free up the 47 occupied gyms.

An association of Flüchtlingsrat Berlin, the initiative 100% Tempelhofer Feld, the Bündnis Neukölln, the network of Architekten für Architekten and the Plattformnachwuchsarchitekten, is demanding a prompt closing of the mass camp at former Tempelhof airport. Instead, they want people to be accommodated in apartments.

Additionally, the conditions at Tempelhof airport are still dire – even before opening a new hangar for new arrivals, the heating failed, and there’s no privacy, the noise and hygienic situation are unbearable, and the ventilation and lighting insufficient.

Any good news?

Maria Giesecke asked her friends to donate money instead of birthday presents so she could go and buy hygienic articles as well as food for the people at LaGeso, and received over 850 Euro. Happy Birthday!

This is me being #emotional at @dm_deutschland #grocery #store #hermannplatz #berlin. Without asking for it, yesterday many of my #friends donated 855€ to me to spend it at dm for the urgent needs at #LaGeSo #moabithilft. Just because I’ve said I gonna go shopping there to bring it over. We spent 345,50€ at #dm, 130,36€ at #aldi and the rest is going to be spend via online orders. This women next to me was just awesome. My dear friends: you are the best. I love you all like crazy!!! + @kkrzmllr and @zesuhr ❤️ #bestbirthday

Ein von Maria Mareiha (@mareiha) gepostetes Foto am

How can you help this week?

Aid organization Moabit Hilft is asking for donations for babies and toddlers as well as winter jackets for men and women, and hygienic products for their facilities at LaGeSo, the full list is here. You can either bring it directly (Turmstraße 21, Haus D), or order it online and have it shipped to them (it really doesn’t get any easier).

At the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge in Spandau, helpers are looking for donations of fruit and other food, as well as people helping to collect trash. A full list with information is here.

The shelter in Karlshorst is looking for baby slings, prams and warm clothing for men. Full list is here.

Kreuzberg Hilft is also looking for warm menswear and hygienic products. Full list is here.

Get Involved

Information and links to initiatives in Berlin can be found on the websites of Flüchtlingsrat Berlin and at bürgeraktiv. Register at volunteer planner to start helping at shelters, many are urgently looking for help, either work in donation rooms or support during breakfast, lunch and dinner services.

This is what happened last time.

PS, A personal story: I’ve been at LaGeSo myself a couple of times during the past days to help a friend from Syria. The situation there is shocking, to say the least. The way this office forces people to wait for hours squeezed in between metal bars, only to get inside to be told to come back in two weeks is mind-boggling. The patience and optimism of the waiting refugees made me speechless. Alas, one can seriously hear people scream and wail inside the tents from time to time. I can only and seriously recommend to once go there to get a glimpse of what a chaos it is. That social senator Mario Czaja has the guts to stand in front of the freezing people and a camera to tell a reporter of ZDF that many things have been improved and there are no sufferings can only count as a joke.
For my friend and me there was a happy end – thanks to a court order he received all pending benefits. However, he only managed to get in and be heard because I was with him and insisted on the order. When he tried to get in last week (without me), they told him to come back in two weeks.


also leave a comment
  1. Hans Blumenberg on


    I feel uneasy about the recommendation to go to the LaGeSo and look at the refugees. I’d imagine that’s what they don’t need – people staring at them in their situation. It’s too close to a Favela Tour. I trust your description, my empathy is triggered. I don’t need to hear the wailing.
    To go there and help – abolutely. To go there and stare – no thanks.

    Other than that: Many thanks for the regular updates.

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      You’re right, suggesting a Favela-like tour to only stare at them was not my intention. However, I think for many people still thinking this is a temporary problem due to the many people arriving, an actual visit would clear up a lot of things. Best done when taking donations there, sure.
      That is actually how I started investing more time. I went to LaGeSo to bring over winter clothing, what I saw there I could not unsee and it was becoming clear to me that I need to do more. They had all my empathy and my rage before – expressed in facebook-likes, that is – but my real help started only after witnessing what they have to go through.

  2. Kayron8 on


    Thank you for sharing your experiences and a view of what the refugee situation looks like to a resident of Berlin- I’m in the United States and there’s shockingly little major media coverage about this. A few numbers, yes, but no context. I’ve been wondering what it looks and feels like, to try and cope with so many desperate people arriving so quickly and how the logistics of that work (or don’t). Your posts on this help me to understand better. Alles Gute.

  3. Benjamin Armitage on


    Hi Mary,

    Firstly I commend you for bringing light to this and for all your help to make a bad situation somewhat better. However I think you’re being a little too rough on your own city. If there’s anywhere that can handle this, it’s Berlin. Remember that most countries and cities have turned their back on this problem, at least Berlin is attempting to tackle it, even if they are struggling. But what I want to say is that while it’s very easy to criticise and be frustrated, I think at the same time, you need to also voice your own opinions of how you would be handling this situation yourself. What alternatives are there? What else can be done? What can be done to improve the current situation if it can’t be changed?
    You have a voice here on a public platform, and even if it’s not as big as the media or the politicians, you should try to promote something positive along with your opinions. I hope this doesn’t offend, I really love your blog and you have provided many incredible Berlin experiences for me.

    Many thanks and best wishes to Berlin.

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      Hi Benjamin,

      it is true that Germany (and Berlin) are doing a much better job than most European countries. However, this doesn’t mean this city is free of failure, and there are many failures happening and it is one goal of this series, to constantly draw attention to those mistakes, that are all so easily fixable. I personally have a ton of ideas on how to improve the situation, as do so many other people in this city, alas, they’re not heard by the senate, who continues to make bad decisions.
      In terms of positivity, this series always includes a “good story” as well as resources on how to help. And I did a big donation rally last December, where we collected over 800kg of winter clothing and almost 500 Euros for refugees (while having a lot of fun), you can find the recap here: http://www.stilinberlin.de/2015/12/recap-stil-in-berlins-warm-up-2.html including a text where I explain my personal point of view on this matter.

      thanks for reading stilinberlin :)


  4. Darius on


    Hi Mary,
    i’m Darius a photographer from Poland , i was wondering if we could have a conversation per Email.
    I have few question about the refugees in Berlin.
    I would be grateful for a reply

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      Sure, just send me a mail!

  5. Darius on


    Hi, sorry but i couldn’t find it anywhere

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