Eastern German states ready to welcome large numbers of refugees from Ukraine

A large number of refugees from Ukraine are currently arriving in eastern Germany - and states say they are ready to help.

Eastern German states ready to welcome large numbers of refugees from Ukraine
Ukrainians, including women and children, arrive at Görlitz railway station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Danilo Dittrich

According to official figures, around 1,000 refugees from Ukraine have arrived so far in the central German states of Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thuringia. The states, which were formally part of East Germany (GDR), are already preparing for more arrivals, though none of their interior ministries have said how many people are expected to arrive.

Saxony-Anhalt’s interior minister, Tamara Zieschang (CDU), said she believes not all of those seeking protection have been registered so far. She has asked arrivals from Ukraine to report to authorities so that they can be given information and advice.

Recent polls have shown that Germans overwhelmingly support welcoming refugees from Ukraine

Dozens of Ukrainians have already crossed into Saxony via the border with Poland near Görlitz by bus and train in recent days and it is expected that a large number of refugees will continue to arrive here first.

Saxony’s interior minister Roland Wöller (CDU) said: “It is not only an imperative of humanity, but also of European solidarity that we take in people.”

READ ALSO: ‘Welcome to Berlin’: Ukrainian refugees pour into Germany

In Saxony as a whole, more than 2,000 places are available in initial reception facilities and there are plans to expand their capacities. State premier Michael Kretschmer (CDU) said that those arriving from Ukraine should spend as short a time as possible in initial reception facilities and be quickly accommodated in towns and villages.

“The children should be able to go to kindergartens and schools. We very much want the women and men to be able to work as well, ” he said.

According to the Saxony state directorate, Ukrainian refugees should be accommodated centrally in Leipzig – where there are currently 550 places available – as here they can be better looked after, for example with interpreters.

Offers of help from the general public

The city of Chemnitz said after an appeal to locals, more than 200 offers to accommodate refugees were received, while the city of Dresden reported 91 offers of housing. According to the municipalities of Magdeburg and Halle (Saale), the large housing cooperatives have also offered to provide a total of around 300 flats.

Due to the large number of offers of help from the population, Saxony, as well as and many districts and municipalities, have set up special help portals and contact forms to better coordinate the offers.

READ ALSO: How people in Germany can support Ukraine

In the Burgenlandkreis in Saxony-Anhalt, people seeking protection are to be accommodated in a former senior citizens’ home and a hotel. And the chambers of crafts in southern and eastern Thuringia want to make the boarding schools of their educational institutions available as accommodation.

Humanitarian aid

Almost all districts of Thuringia have also set up private or voluntary initiatives for helping those affected by the war in Ukraine, including collecting donations, organising aid transports or offering housing. A large aid convoy of 14 vehicles has already returned from a first mission at the Polish-Ukrainian border.

READ ALSO: How Germany is preparing for an influx of Ukrainian refugees

In Saxony-Anhalt, too, donations of food, equipment and money are currently being collected for the victims of the war in Ukraine. The state itself is coordinating some relief measures, but there are also a number of public and private initiatives.

The state is also preparing humanitarian aid, including for the transport of injured people to hospitals.  

Interior minister Tamara Zieschang said: “This is precautionary at the moment, but unfortunately, in view of the developments in Ukraine, we cannot rule out the possibility that we will also have to provide this humanitarian aid and will do so in this case as well.”

Did you know?

Since German reunification in 1990, the term “Mitteldeutschland” (central Germany) has often been used to describe the region that extends around the triangle of the states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Sometimes it is also used to refer to the three states in their entirety, especially by the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (Central German Broadcasting), which was founded by these states in 1991.

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Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has sued the German parliament for removing some of his official post-retirement perks over his links to Russian energy giants, his lawyer said Friday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Schröder, 78, has come under heavy criticism for his proximity to Russian President Vladimir Putin and involvement with state-backed energy companies.

The decision to suspend Schröder’s taxpayer-funded office and staff in May was “contrary to the rule of law”, Michael Nagel, told public broadcaster NDR.

Schröder “heard of everything through the media”, Nagel said, noting that the Social Democrat had asked for a hearing before the budget committee responsible but was not given the chance to express himself.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over Russia ties

Schröder’s lawyers filed the complaint with an administrative Berlin court, a spokesman for the court confirmed.

In its decision to strip him of the perks, the committee concluded that Schröder, who served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

Most of Schröder’s office staff had already quit before the final ruling was made.

Despite resigning from the board of Russian oil company Rosneft and turning down a post on the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in May, Schröder has maintained close ties with the Kremlin.

The former chancellor met Putin in July, after which he said Moscow was ready for a “negotiated solution” to the war in Ukraine — comments branded as “disgusting” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Last week, the Social Democrats concluded that Schröder would be allowed to remain a member after he was found not have breached party rules over his ties to the Russian President.

Schröder’s stance on the war and solo diplomacy has made him an embarrassment to the SPD, which is also the party of current Chancellor Olaf Scholz.