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UKRAINE

German states call for more support in managing refugee crisis

German cities are struggling with the influx of refugees from Ukraine following the Russian invasion, and have called for better organisation by the government, as well as more money.

Jennifer (l), a teacher from Hamburg, and Nathan, a student, use their computers to help fill out online applications for refugees in front of the Office for Migration in Hamburg early on Thursday.
Jennifer (l), a teacher from Hamburg, and Nathan, a student, use their computers to help fill out online applications for refugees in front of the Office for Migration in Hamburg early on Thursday. German authorities are struggling to cope and relying on volunteers. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

Ahead of consultations with Chancellor Olaf Scholz on how to manage the wave of refugees – many of them women and children – fleeing war-torn Ukraine, Germany’s states and municipalities are calling for better coordination.

According to a draft paper from the heads of states, arrivals from Ukraine should be registered “quickly and in an uncomplicated manner”.

The states also want to see an organised system of distribution across Germany so that some areas do not get overwhelmed.

They have urged federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser to “quickly improve nationwide coordination and distribution in coordination with the interior ministries of the states and to quickly establish the framework conditions for registration”.

An “orderly and structured distribution procedure” taking into account the agreed distribution key is needed to avoid “burdens on individual states”, the draft proposal from the states says. 

The states urge for the government to take on a “strong coordinating role”.

Around 175,000 Ukrainian refugees have registered in Germany so far, however, the actual number of people is likely much higher. 

Large cities, such as Berlin, are struggling to provide for refugees.

READ ALSO: ‘It feels like a dream’: The refugees arriving in Berlin from Ukraine war-zone

“In this acute situation, we expect additional clear commitments from the federal government in terms of organisational, personnel and also financial support, which we urgently need, not only in Berlin,” Berlin’s mayor Franziska Giffey told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe.

Volunteers hand out food to refugees from Ukraine at Berlin main station.

Volunteers hand out food to refugees from Ukraine at Berlin main station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Carsten Koall

The city state is “currently taking in the largest proportion of refugees from Ukraine compared to the rest of Germany”, she said.

‘Overcrowded’

The German Association of Cities has also called for a better distribution of refugees who have been forced to leave their homes in Ukraine because of Russia’s ruthless attacks. 

“Especially in the big cities, even the new emergency shelters in exhibition halls and event halls will soon be overcrowded,” Markus Lewe, president of the German Association of Cities, told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND).

READ ALSO: How people in Germany can support Ukraine

During talks on Thursday, the federal and state governments have to “agree on a coherent solution to distribute refugees well among all cities and municipalities” and also create new processes for supporting refugees upon arrival, Lewe said.

He also called for a separate joint refugee summit involving the federal, state and municipal governments.

“We need a commitment: providing for the refugees is a joint effort that we will tackle as one,” he said. “We expect that the federal and state governments will then also be prepared to finance the accommodation and care of the people for the most part.”

German cities should “not be left alone with this”, he urged. 

Safety concerns

On Wednesday the government said it would do more to make sure refugees coming from Ukraine and other places do not become victims of crime. 

It comes after authorities in Düsseldorf said a young woman in a refugee centre was allegedly raped by two men earlier this month.

Police have detained the suspects, Düsseldorf prosecutor’s office confirmed earlier this week.

Sascha Lawrenz , a spokeswoman for the federal Interior Ministry, said authorities are “working to ensure that people who seek shelter here are able to get it”.

Meanwhile, the German Association of Cities and Municipalities says assisting refugees fleeing Putin’s war on Ukraine is expected to cost billions of euros.

“For accommodation and integration, about €1,000 per person and month has to be calculated”, Gerd Landsberg, managing director of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, told Bild newspaper.

READ ALSO: How is Germany supporting refugees from Ukraine?

In view of the 175,000 refugees from Ukraine who have already arrived, municipalities are facing “huge challenges in terms of accommodation and care”.

Meanwhile, CDU leader Friedrich Merz called for more households in Germany to take in refugees.

“We have to prepare for a really very large number of refugees in Germany,” Merz told broadcaster ARD. Merz, who forms part of the opposition, said the government had not been sufficiently prepared and was taking action too late.

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POLITICS

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Germany's investments in defence in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine will transform it into the biggest contributor to NATO in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Alongside the United States, Germany is “certainly making the largest contribution” to NATO, Scholz said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

Speaking at the close of a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven rich democracies, Scholz said Germany was in the process of creating “the largest conventional army within the NATO framework in Europe”.

Days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Bundestag approves €100 billion fund to beef up defences

He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, answering years of criticism from close allies that Berlin was failing to contribute enough to the alliance.

Russia’s invasion had led to a renewed conviction “that we should spend more money on defence”, Scholz said.

“We will spend an average of around 70 to 80 billion euros a year on defence over the next few years,” he said, meaning “Germany is the country that invests the most in this”.

Scholz’s announcement in February was seen as a major policy shift, upending Germany’s traditionally cautious approach to defence as a result of its post-war guilt.

Germany had steadily reduced the size of its army since the end of the Cold War from around 500,000 at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000.

NATO allies are from Tuesday gathering in Madrid for a summit, where the United States is expected to announce new long-term military deployments across Europe.

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