Since the start of the war in Ukraine, almost 200,000 refugees have arrived in Germany. There has been widespread willingness to help and a welcoming approach throughout the country, but states have recently appealed for more guidance and assistance from the central government.
In Thursday’s summit, heads of the German federal and state governments discussed the practical issues relating to the influx of people from Ukraine and produced a document containing their pledges. Though many concrete steps still need to be decided, these are some of the key points so far.
Allocation and accommodation
The resolution paper states that the federal government will take a “strong coordinating function” in allocating the incoming refugees to states, with transport, distribution decisions and information services given as examples of how the central government will assist.
This is an important point as thousands of refugees have been arriving every day in major cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Hanover, and the states have, so far, been relying on voluntary offers of accommodation places from other states to take people in.
According to the resolution, however, the distribution of people should now be decided based on the so-called “Königstein Key” which determines how individual German states are to participate in joint financing or in sharing incoming refugees, based on tax revenue and population size.
According to the paper, making living spaces available should also be sped up, with the federal government wanting to allow deviations from some building planning standards to free up places more quickly.
Fast and uncomplicated registration
The resolution paper states that “the Federal Chancellor and the heads of government of the states consider it essential to register the arrivals quickly and without complications.” Registering new arrivals is crucial, as having a registered residency status is a requirement for those wanting to work.
The federal government has pledged to provide personnel and material support needed to speed up the registration procedure via the Central Register of Foreigners.
Work and integration opportunities
Once those coming to Germany have been granted a residence permit, they should be able to take up work in Germany immediately – the paper states.
The federal government will open up integration and job-related German courses to those coming from Ukraine as well as offering child care and counselling for refugees and their families. The offers are to be combined in the central help portal “Germany 4 Ukraine”.
The focus on speeding up working opportunities comes after Berlin’s Mayor Franziska Giffey reported that the first question asked by most of the arrivals in the city-state was, “Where can I work?”.
According to the paper, Ukrainian children and students should be quickly admitted to schools and colleges and offered school psychological counselling and support. Children’s access to day care facilities should also be sped up as quickly as possible to help parents to attend integration courses. Care for orphans and their carers as well as unaccompanied and accompanied minors is to be guaranteed and coordination will take place at the federal level through a central contact point.
Refugees will be entitled to use health care services, including necessary medical treatments and medicines, and will also be able to get Covid vaccinations. The treatment of sick and injured people from Ukraine in hospitals is already being organised via the so-called “cloverleaf procedure”. That essentially means that groups of states band together to distribute patients across the regions and prevent overwhelm in intensive care units.
The federal government generally acknowledged its “joint responsibility for financing”, but a concrete discussion on funding for these assistance measures has been postponed to a later date.
The resolution states that a working group will develop a proposal for a solution in time for the next meeting on April 7th.
“In particular, the topics of accommodation costs, costs of subsistence assistance and questions of individual service provision, assistance for particularly vulnerable groups as well as questions of federal participation in the costs of integration in child day care, schools and the labour market are to be negotiated and, as a result, an overall financing concept is to be developed,” it says.