Even a month after the start of the war, the situation in Hessian emergency shelters is difficult to assess. Larger cities report congestion. It is not known how many Ukrainians are already in the country. The only thing that seems clear is that many will follow.
The dark-haired woman is standing at the registration table outside the gym. In her arms she holds a stack of colorful children’s jackets and a plastic folder with papers. “I can’t believe this is really happening,” she says.
In tears, Ukraine talks about what she has been through. You speak of a university that is now in ruins. Of children born in subway stations. And from the city of Lviv, from which she just managed to escape before the bombs fell there too.
Now a camping cot, chair and cushion wrapped in plastic await them at the Georg Gassmann stadium in Marburg. It is three square meters of security, facing a wall of bars. On this day alone, 250 war refugees from Ukraine were taken from the Giessen reception center to temporary emergency accommodation nearly 30 kilometers away.
8,000 registered refugees and much more expected
Just a month after the outbreak of the war, the state and some municipalities are reaching the limits of their capacities. The Hessian initial reception center has now registered around 8,000 refugees from Ukraine and, in addition to its head office in Gießen and its regular branches in several surrounding districts, has set up emergency accommodation, mainly in gyms.
The regional council (RP) Gießen, which is responsible for the initial reception, reports on a request for hours: Currently, between four and five buses arrive at the initial reception facility every day and the emergency shelters are almost completely occupied. Two more branches are in preparation and will soon be operational.
It probably won’t stay that way. “The numbers are increasing every day,” Prime Minister Volker Bouffier (CDU) said in the state parliament and calculated: with an estimated one million war refugees in Germany, around 75,000 people would come to Hesse under the distribution system. known as the “Königstein Key”.
For comparison: in 2015, the initial reception center reached its all-time high with nearly 80,000 people in one year.
Differences from 2015
However, the current situation is in some respects very different from that of 2015 and, it seems, is even more confusing at the moment. Because no one can say: how many refugees are there already in Hesse? The biggest difference: Syrians arrived at the border in 2015. Refugees were registered as asylum seekers and then distributed to first reception facilities in federal states and finally to municipalities.
Ukrainians, on the other hand, do not have to apply for asylum. You can simply enter the country and then obtain a residence permit from the immigration authorities relatively quickly and unbureaucratically. In theory, they can request it wherever they want. Under normal conditions, the reception center would not be responsible at all. At the moment it is only intervening because the number of people who are arriving is so great.
Many are not even registered
The ways in which people reach Hesse are also very different: some are picked up directly from the border by relatives and initially find accommodation privately. They may not officially register until weeks later, when they seek permanent accommodation and work.
Others have no local contacts and, for example, end up in a city in Hesse by pure chance on a private aid transport. Either they are hosted there in a municipal emergency shelter or with a host family, or they are taken to the first reception. Others end up in Berlin, enter the regular distribution system of the federal states and end up in Giessen.
“Many things happen at the same time”
Timmo Scherenberg of the Hessian Refugee Council explains: “A lot of things happen at the same time, at the moment everything is still very messy.” Scherenberg commends: the authorities reacted quickly and emergency shelters were quickly set up. It is now important to ensure that there is a more even distribution and that temporary solutions do not become permanent solutions.
The challenge: Currently, a particularly large number of people are landing in the larger cities. Frankfurt alone has already registered more than 2,500 Ukrainians and expects as many refugees who have not yet been registered. Wiesbaden and Kassel report similarly high numbers. Here too it is said: since not all people have been registered yet, there may be much more.
Partition walls and cots are scarce, used to the limit
Some cities have already set up emergency teams and opened their own emergency shelters regardless of the initial reception. In the Offenbach district, for example, a hotel is used, in Marburg an empty retirement home and in Kassel part of the town hall.
The city of Frankfurt has already set up an exhibition hall for 2,000 people and eleven sports halls for 1,500 people. Social affairs director Elke Voitl (Verdi) announced that the city would soon open additional emergency shelters. However, partitions and cots are already scarce and need to be tidied up, and the situation is also very stressful for the staff. “The employees of the social welfare office have been working at the border for weeks,” says Voitl.
“We need to get to regular procedures, otherwise the municipalities will die”
Wiesbaden Social Department Head Chrisoph Manjura (SPD) sounds the alarm: the state capital cannot accommodate more people. “About as many people come to Wiesbaden every day as there were weekly during the Syrian war refugee period.” Many come alone. And in addition, the city is now receiving assignments from the first reception.
Manjura asks that refugees from the country who have already arrived be counted at the time of distribution from the initial reception. “We urgently need to get to regular procedures, otherwise we will die as municipalities.”
RP Darmstadt, which is responsible for distributing the initial reception in the cities and districts of Hesse, gives hope. From there it says: Cities and districts can now report refugees who have been admitted, and this will then be taken into account in the assignments from the initial reception.
Urgently needed accommodation
However, the big question remains: where should people live? Even before the war in Ukraine, many districts, including rural ones, were desperately looking for accommodation, for example for refugees from Afghanistan.
Timmo Scherenberg of the Hessian Refugee Council asks: provisional must also mean provisional. At the moment it is quite possible that refugees first come to emergency accommodation in the Hessian initial shelter in the municipality and then be assigned to a municipality, where they also end up in temporary mass housing.
“What we must not repeat are the mistakes of 2015: that people also live in such large housing for a longer period of time,” says Scherenberg. This is an obstacle to integration.
From the perspective of the refugee council, the aim should not be to conclude long-term contracts for shared housing, but to create a regular living space for people as quickly as possible.
End of further information