Town pays refugees to haul luggage

A town in Baden-Wüttermberg has taken the controversial step of employing asylum seekers to carry passengers' luggage during renovation work at the train station. They are being paid €1.05 an hour.

Town pays refugees to haul luggage
Photo: DPA

Since Monday, a group of asylum seekers is being paid just over a euro an hour to haul train passengers’ luggage up and down flights of stairs in the southern town of Schwäbisch Gmünd, wrote Der Spiegel late on Tuesday.

The ten refugees, originally from African countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, currently residents of the 250-strong refugee shelter in the town, had volunteered for the job, wrote the magazine.

Clad in red T-shirts declaring “Service” and straw hats to shield them from the sun, the refugees work in teams of two, completing two luggage-hauling shifts a day between 6.15 am and 6 pm.

The town – which is getting a face-lift as it prepares to host Baden-Wüttermberg’s State Garden Festival next year – employed the refugees after receiving complaints from passengers unwilling or unable to carry their own luggage over a temporary steel bridge between platforms during renovation work.

The meagre wage – paid on top of free transport to and from work – is the maximum asylum seekers can earn in Germany by law.

“It’s not a sum that serves as an incentive,” town spokesman Markus Hermann told the magazine, adding that everyone wished the refugees could get more cash for their work.

One way is to appeal to passengers – who have welcomed the new porters – to give them generous tips to supplement their earnings, said Hermann.

Schwäbisch Gmünd Mayor Richard Arnold is keen to get the refugees involved in the community – and sees the station work as just one way to encourage contact between locals and the asylum seekers, wrote the magazine.

“These people are living with us and we have to take care of them,” Mayor Arnold told Der Spiegel.

The Local/jlb

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