Accommodation for refugees: “Not just a roof over your head”


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Status: 03/18/2023 12:24 p.m

In view of the large number of refugees, the municipalities see themselves at the breaking point. They are pushing for more support from the federal government and are calling for a strategy – preferably before the refugee summit in May.

The number of refugees in Germany is increasing rapidly: more than a million people have fled to Germany from Ukraine since the start of the Russian war of aggression. People seeking protection continue to come from other countries as well, and the number of asylum applications in the Federal Republic is increasing rapidly. But what to do with all the people? The municipalities warn of an overload and are demanding more support from the federal government.

Günther: Local authority capacities are limited

From the point of view of Schleswig-Holstein’s Prime Minister Daniel Günther, the distribution of refugees must be limited to the municipalities. “People with no prospect of a residence status or a toleration should remain in the state accommodation so that the procedures can be carried out there,” said the CDU politician to the editorial network Germany.

The federal and state governments must recognize that the capacities of the municipalities are finite. Günther emphasized that the aim was to offer refugees good conditions. “Not just a roof over your head, but also sensible integration offers”. In order to ensure this, the municipalities should not be overwhelmed.

Deport people who are required to leave the country

The Prime Minister spoke out against transferring the special rules for refugees from Ukraine to people from other countries of origin. For example, Ukrainian refugees can work in Germany immediately. At the same time, however, Günther emphasized that refugees who do not yet have a permanent residence permit but want to get involved should be given the opportunity to earn a living.

Günther praised the right of residence introduced by the traffic light coalition last year, which grants tolerated people a right of residence after successful integration. It is an important tool against the shortage of skilled workers. “In addition, we finally need a functioning and solidary asylum and migration system at EU level, in which people who are obliged to leave the country are also deported,” emphasized Günther.

Bas: How long is the citizen’s breath?

The President of the Bundestag, Bärbel Bas, is also calling for greater support from the local authorities in accommodating refugees and warns of social tensions. “There is still a great deal of solidarity among the majority of Germans. But we have to ask ourselves whether the citizens have the staying power in the long term,” the SPD politician told the newspapers of the Funke media group.

“We now have to give more support to the municipalities that are particularly under pressure when it comes to accommodating refugees. It’s about living space, school places and the question of how cities like my hometown of Duisburg can get their costs reimbursed.”

Municipalities should not reallocate funds for the refugees and save on other tasks. “In the municipalities, the citizens are the first to notice when something is going wrong. That’s when it’s most likely to fall apart.”

Behrens: Social debate is becoming more difficult

Lower Saxony’s Minister for Social Affairs, Daniela Behrens, also warns of this. “We fear that in the medium term we could reach a point where social acceptance is endangered,” Behrens told the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung.

Last year, Lower Saxony took in around 110,000 people displaced by war from Ukraine. In addition, the country offered protection to more than 20,000 asylum seekers. “We have organized everything very well so far and managed it in close cooperation between the state and local authorities,” emphasized Behrens. That will stay that way, “but we notice from the discussions on site that the social debate is becoming more difficult”.

EU readmission agreement must regulate returns

Behrens called on the federal government and the EU to act. Refugees should be distributed more fairly among the individual EU countries. In addition, it must be ensured within the framework of readmission agreements that people who do not meet the grounds for asylum can be returned.

There are currently many people living in Lower Saxony who have had their asylum applications rejected and who cannot be deported because they do not have passports or are unwilling to be taken back by their countries of origin. “The right of asylum is a valuable asset in Germany, especially because of our historical responsibility. But if it is undermined, then that is a problem,” emphasized Behrens.

Refugee summit scheduled for May 10th

The number of asylum applications in Germany increased significantly in the first few months of this year. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), a total of 58,802 people applied for asylum in January and February 2023. Compared to the same period of the previous year, this means an increase of 84.5 percent.

A refugee summit with the prime ministers is planned for May 10, which will primarily deal with financing issues. On Thursday, the federal states had asked for more money from the federal government for accommodation and care at the Prime Ministers’ Conference. In a joint decision, it was said that states and municipalities were reaching their limits.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz had previously in his government statement emphasizes that the federal government bears the “largest part” of the costs for refugees: last year the federal government paid the federal states and local authorities more than 3.5 billion euros, this year another 2.75 billion should flow, according to the SPD Politician.

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