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
75.000.000 | That’s how much LaGeSo paid in the last couple days for pending invoices of shelters and hostels. Which means that the operators had to bear all costs until now.
How’s the situation at the registration office, LaGeSo?
While reigning mayor, Michael Müller, promises improvements for 2016, aid organization Moabit Hilft reports many people have to wait outside in the cold rain because the tents are crowded. And while some of the tents have been made weather-proof in the past week, the chaos around payments and appointments, is persisting.
What’s the government of Berlin doing?
The senate of Berlin has repeatedly promised to stop using gyms to shelter refugees, not only because the damages done to the facilities will be huge (and expensive), as Tagesspiegel reports. Turns out, their solution is a plan to expand the already giant (and heavily criticized) shelters at former Tempelhof airport, into an even bigger accommodation for up to 7000 people, including a school, a kindergarden and a canteen. For this, the law against buildings on the field that came into being thanks to a huge citizen’s movement in 2014, will have to be changed or at least temporarily suspended. Tempelhof borough’s mayor, Angelika Schöttler, welcomes the senate’s plans in an interview with RBB.
Many architects and urban planners have not only criticized the shelter policy of the senate, but made suggestions on how to creatively solve the housing problem in a sustainable manner (for Berliners and refugees alike). However, they remain unused by the senate, says specialist magazine Bauwelt. A citizen’s initiative recently presented a plan to build three storey, wooden houses inside of the hangars of Tempelhof airport to optimize the use of space and enable more privacy. The reaction to this new idea were rather noncommittal.
A big shelter in Berlin, the former congress center ICC, has to face an outbreak of chicken pox, Berliner Zeitung reports, the city wants to amplify vaccinations, which many refugees willingly use.
Due to big demand, the technical university of Berlin, TU, will expand their program for refugees, allowing them to apply for language classes and preliminary courses, reports RBB.
Any good news?
Many people have asked the big brands to step up in the help for refugees. A definitely impressive contribution came from Japan last weekend – Fast Retailing, the mother company of fashion brand Uniqlo, has donated almost 50.000 pieces of clothing for refugees in Berlin, that were distributed by Stadtmission. This includes 39.000 pieces of new womens, mens and childrenswear, as well as about 10.000 slightly used pieces donated in European Uniqlo stores. The donation was part of their initiative “10 Million ways to help” started in October 2015 in cooperation with the UN Refugee Agency.
How can you help this week?
Willkommensbündnis Steglitz-Zehlendorf is looking for administrational help to coordinate donations, translators, accompaniment and much more. The full list is here.
Empty your wardrobe before fashion week: drop by your spare sneakers and boots at the next Kicks 4 Refugees, this Sunday at Bikini Berlin.
Moabit hilft, the aid organization active at LaGeSo, is once again looking for hygienic products: diapers, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, baby lotions and baby milk. 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).
The shelter at Marzahn’s Brebacher Weg is home to many pregnant women and young mothers and is looking for baby products and layette. Donate it at or send it to Brebacher Weg 15, Haus 41.
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.