• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Refugee crisis
Berlin refugee boss resigns in disgrace
Refugees waiting outside the Berlin Lageso to be registered. Photo: DPA

Berlin refugee boss resigns in disgrace

AFP/The Local · 10 Dec 2015, 15:00

Published: 10 Dec 2015 11:31 GMT+01:00
Updated: 10 Dec 2015 15:00 GMT+01:00

Franz Allert's resignation late on Wednesday came shortly after the German capital's mayor Michael Müller made an open call on public broadcaster RBB for "new leadership for Lageso".

Known by its acronym Lageso, Berlin's State Health and Social Office is migrants' first port of call in the German capital.

Since June, hundreds of men, women and children have queued and jostled almost daily in its unsheltered dirt courtyard, some of them for weeks, waiting for a number and an initial interview with a frazzled bureaucrat inside.

But activists at Moabit Hilft, one of the groups which has organized grassroots support for the refugees waiting at the Lageso, don't believe the change of leadership will help them.

"Of course we don't expect anything to change. The fish stinks from the head down – the [Berlin] Senate is responsible for the situation," Moabit Hilft spokeswoman Diana Henniges told The Local.

She argued that the city needed to send more experts to organize humanitarian and medical aid – and call in outside help to restructure the inefficient bureaucracy at the Lageso.

As the weather gets chillier, she said, the situation will inevitably get worse.

"People are out on the street in the cold, and they are hungry because they don't have any money. It's down to two degrees and it might snow next week," Henniges said.

The poor conditions outside the Lageso have meant that security guards, backed by police, have sometimes had to contain the crowds as scuffles have broken out.

Neighbourhood volunteers like those organized by Moabit Hilft have so far averted disaster by handing out clothes, warm drinks and food as the weather turned colder.

Henniges invited any Berliners looking to help to register as a volunteer with Moabit Hilft and check the list of items they can donate.

Lageso was also where a four-year-old Bosnian refugee was kidnapped and later raped and killed by a paedophile who apparently took advantage of the chaos at the site.

Germany is expecting to record one million in asylum seeker arrivals this year, and Berlin has registered 70,000 newcomers since January.

'Shocking' situation

Despite volunteers' best efforts, the situation is "shocking and unworthy of a democratic society," charged the Green Party's parliamentary vice president Claudia Roth.

In an open letter to Berlin mayor Martin Mueller, she said she saw people "endure the queues, sometimes in the mud, rain and storm, often tightly packed into closed-off ares, tents or buildings, with no guarantee that their suffering will be worth it".

Many of the refugees, Roth wrote, "feel powerless, helpless and as if trapped in a nightmare".

'Inhumane conditions'

Roth said that in her southern German home state of Bavaria - where conservative politicians have railed the loudest against the influx – the on-the-ground aid efforts had nonetheless been far more professional.

This was despite the fact Bavaria is taking in 15 percent of refugees coming to Germany, against five percent for Berlin.

Highlighting the chaos has been the tragic case of four-year-old Bosnian boy who was kidnapped from the crowd and killed by a serial offender.

Mueller defended his city's efforts, pointing to the "special situation" and ongoing efforts to expand staffing and services, adding that "the topic of housing refugees should not be used for political games".

Meanwhile, over 40 lawyers have filed a criminal complaint against the city's health senator Mario Czaja, alleging the institutional neglect was "causing bodily harm".

"In no other state are politicians and administrators failing as systematically as here," charged lawyer Christina Clemm, claiming the result was injuries, illnesses, hunger and homelessness.

Tensions in refugee camps

Another Berlin flashpoint has been a vast refuge shelter set up, months after the idea was first floated, in the massive Nazi-era Tempelhof airport, which during the Cold War served as a crucial western military air hub.

The mood inside has been described as tense, in part because 2,200 inhabitants in bunk beds have to use outside portable toilets and a bus shuttle service to take showers in nearby public swimming pools.

"These are inhumane housing conditions," a volunteer told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There are children who have scabies but receive no medical treatment and continue to play with others."

In late November, tensions escalated at Tempelhof and groups attacked each other, some armed with metal rods and knives.

Berlin, faced with a chronic housing shortage, plans to expand the Tempelhof site and accommodate up to 8,000 people in tents inside its hangars.

The Berliner Zeitung daily said the challenge was to build a functioning refugee facility "akin to a small town".

"The experiment at the airport, which once stood for the defence of freedom, must succeed," it said.

"Otherwise there is a danger that Tempelhof will be mentioned in the same breath as the infamous Lageso. It would be proof yet again of the government's failure," added the daily, referring to the registration centre.

SEE ALSO: Host refugees at Christmas: Berlin bishop

Tom Barfield contributed reporting

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
Munich pulls together after shopping mall shooting
Photo: DPA

In the chaos after the Munich mall shooting, city residents spontaneously offered shelter to strangers - a move that Chancellor Angela Merkel said showed that Germany's strength lies in its values.

Merkel deplores 'night of horror' in Munich
Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday said Munich had suffered a "night of horror" after a shooting spree in the southern German city left nine people dead.

Munich shooting
Munich attacker was shy video game fan
People laying flowers at the site of the shootings. Photo: DPA.

David Ali Sonboly was a quiet, helpful teenager who loved playing video games. His neighbours say there were no warning signs before his deadly rampage at a Munich shopping mall.

Munich shooting
Munich gunman inspired by rightwing Breivik: police
Photo: DPA

The lone teenager who shot dead nine people in a gun rampage in Munich was "obsessed" with mass killers such as Norwegian rightwing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik and had no links to the Islamic State group, police said Saturday.

Munich shooting
Turks, Kosovans and a Greek among shooting victims
Photo: DPA

Three Turkish citizens were among the nine people killed in Germany's Munich mall shooting. Three Kosovans were also among the nine victims.

Munich shooting
Munich gunman was likely not Isis terrorist: police
Flowers laid at the Olympia Shopping Centre underground station. Photo: DPA

According to initial investigations by Munich police, the young man who went on a shooting rampage in Munich on Friday evening was a lone gunman without motive, not a terrorist.

Munich shooting
'Lone' Munich shooter kills nine, commits suicide
Photo: DPA

A teenage German-Iranian gunman who killed nine people in a shooting spree at a busy Munich shopping centre and then committed suicide had likely acted alone, German police said Saturday.

As it happened
Nine dead in shooting rampage in Munich
File photo: DPA

Nine people are dead after "at least one person" went on a shooting spree in a Munich shopping centre on Friday evening. An attacker is believed to be among the dead.

German Turkish community split by unrest after coup plot
Pro-Erdogan protesters in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Hatred between supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and those opposed to him has exploded on social media in Germany in the wake of a failed coup attempt last Friday.

Germany stresses defence of Baltics after Trump comments
Photo: DPA

Germany on Friday stressed its promise to protect its NATO allies after White House hopeful Donald Trump called the commitment into question.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Analysis & Opinion
Nice was an attack on France, not on Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
10,799
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd