• 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
Telekom warns all users to change passwords after scam
Photo: DPA.

German giant Deutsche Telekom is warning customers to change their passwords after finding that up to 120,000 customers' data was being sold on the black market.

Brexit vote
How Brits can escape to Germany and still feel at home
The store Broken English in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Giving up on the UK post-Brexit? Come to Germany - it's not so different!

German MPs file war crimes suit against Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: DPA

A group of German politicians and public figures have filed a lawsuit against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing him of committing war crimes against his country's Kurdish minority.

Brexit vote
Merkel: no backroom deals with UK on Brexit
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out on Monday informal talks with the UK on the terms of a Brexit, but said the EU should be patient with London.

Sartorial slip-up leads police to pipe bomb
A sign reading FCK CPS. Photo: Jürgen Telkmann / Flickr Creative Commons.

Police stopped a man because he was wearing a FCK CPS shirt, only to discover he had been making a pipe bomb.

Gay German MP 'violently arrested' at Istanbul demo
Volker Beck and Terry Reintken in Istanbul. Photo: DPA

One of the most prominent members of Germany's Green party has been arrested in Turkey after attending a banned demo at the end of Gay Pride Week.

Man Utd target blasts Germany to win over Slovakia
Julian Draxler (l) celebrates with Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller. Photo: DPA

Germany coach Joachim Löw appears to have found the right formula to get his attack firing at Euro 2016 after Julian Draxler's outstanding contribution in Sunday's 3-0 win over Slovakia.

Germany says 'won't let anyone take Europe from us'
Steinmeier called the European Union “a successful project of peace and stability”. Photo: DPA

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Saturday that the EU would weather the shock of the British vote to leave the union as he convened crisis talks.

Brexit vote
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
A sign in Berlin's tech giant and startup-building company Rocket Internet. Photo: DPA.

London is currently thought of as the main hub for startups in Europe, but that will all turn around when the UK leaves the EU, tech industry experts say.

Brexit vote - Analysis
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
British Leave campaigners celebrate Brexit result. Photo: DPA

Britain leaving the EU means trouble ahead for Germany - and its hardest task will be convincing the Brits to drop a self-defeating ideology, a leading foreign policy expert told The Local.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
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
US expats: Taxes are due June 15th
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
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
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sport
How to sound like an expert on German football this summer
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
Features
6 reasons Germany's summer is unbeatable for thrill-seekers
National
The future belongs to these 10 German regions
Society
How pictures of footballers on chocolates made Pegida really mad
Health
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
7,874
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd