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
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.
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.
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.