Refugees in Berlin
In the course of the European-wide refugee crisis, Germany has been confronted with an unexpected amount of 1.091.894 registered asylum seekers in the year of 2015. People from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Kosovo and Algeria fleeing war, poverty and other intolerable living conditions in their native countries, have been entering the country on illegal and dangerous routes on the Mediterranean sea as well as through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary – or Croatia – and Switzerland.
Germany’s refugee policy, according to the ‘Geneva Convention on Refugees’ (1951), grants individuals, who have to face persecution due to their nationality, race and religion, with the right of asylum. The German asylum procedure requires that refugees who enter the country have to approach the nearest office for registration and turn themselves in. According to a special formula (‘Königsteiner Schlüssel’), the asylum seekers’ initial distribution to different states in the country is ensued, followed by the submission of their asylum applications and the examination by the ‘Federal Office for Migration and Refugees’ (BAMF). During the wait for the federal office’s decision over the application, the asylum seekers are granted with a temporary residence permit that allows them to stay in the country as long as their asylum process is ongoing. Once a refugee receives an asylum status, she or he gets provided with all the social benefits that German nationals are endowed with like insurance, welfare, child-raising benefits, language and integration courses etc.
Those applicants that get rejected, are required to leave the country.
In Germany’s capital Berlin, the ‘Health and Social Charity State Agency’ (Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales, short: LaGeSo) operates as the makeshift reception center for asylum seekers that have to register here i. a. in order to receive support for healthcare, welfare, accommodation and to apply for their asylum status procedure. Well known for its long waiting hours and chaotic bureaucracy due to the mass of refugees and the lack of an adequate infrastructure in both processing and accommodating, LaGeSo has been under criticism ever since.
The former “Tempelhof Airport” in Berlin which has been built in 1923, reconstructed by the Nazi government in 1930 and shut down in 2008, serves as Germany’s biggest shelter for refugees with approx. 2000 people housing in the four hangars of the building. According to construction plans, the Berlin municipality aims to extend shelter capacities on the 380 hectare airfield to be able to house up to 7000 refugees. Due to continuing differences that the multinational residents have been facing, the hangars are divided by ethnicities to reduce the intercultural conflicts.
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