Swathes of refugees turned up in Italy after war broke out in Libya and, according to a letter from Germany's Interior Ministry seen by Die Welt newspaper, thousands of them recently received €500 each from the Italian government to leave the country.
“Refugees were slipped the money under the advice that they would go to Germany,” the letter, addressed to refugee advisors, said. In Italy they were offered temporary accommodation, the EU funding for which has since dried up.
Around 300 of these refugees have set up home behind the Bismarck monument in Hamburg, where there is no shelter and, according to refugee rights activists Karawane, cold, wet weather has left lots of them ill.
“They have no legal right to accommodation or state support and it would be irresponsible to give them false hope,” Hamburg Social Affairs Minister Detlef Scheele, told Die Welt. “There is no alternative other than for them to go where they can work and have the legal right to reside, be it Italy or their home country” he added.
The city has offered its new residents free train tickets back to Italy, but to little success.
It seems, the newspaper said, that Italy gave many of the refugees – who despite coming from Libya are largely migrant workers from Togo, Nigeria and Ghana – a temporary pass allowing them to move freely within the Schengen zone.
This pass granted them three months stay somewhere in the Schengen areas of the EU, but many have already been in Germany longer and, according to the letter, those who have not do not appear to be making plans to leave.
Karawane are reportedly looking into whether charges can be filed against Hamburg city for bodily harm through neglect or failure to offer help.
Outside of the bureaucratic world, Hamburg's churches and charities have been gathering tents for them, as well as offering basic healthcare and advice sessions.