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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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UKRAINE

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
 
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
 
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
 
 
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant
“Sentimentai”.

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.

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