8 Aug 2015

German army and volunteers provide shelter for refugees

The German army and scores of volunteers are helping to build homes for the mass flux of migrants that have descended to the country in the last few months.

A record 450,000 asylum seekers are expected to pour into Germany this year, which has prompted arson attacks against refugee communities and support from the government to provide housing those displaced.

Germany has seen record numbers of refugees come to the country in the last year, more than double from the 200,000 who applied for asylum in 2014.

Local authorities, the army and volunteers have begun to set about a large-scale humanitarian effort to feed and house those fleeing-war torn countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Providing shelter

In Berlin, people have been providing migrant with supplies such as water, food and even nappies and toys for children as refugees sign up for asylum in the city’s regional office for health and social services.

Spokesperson for NGO Malteser Berlin, Matthias Nowak said: “We can only help to make sure that the things that are being brought here are then handed out as quickly as possible with the help of the many volunteers.”

In Hamburg, German soldiers have been deployed for the first time in the crisis to put up tents to help house the 300 refugees arriving there each day.

But those who welcome the refugees have faced a backlash from the far-right.

Mareike Geiling, of the non-profit group Refugees Welcome, said: “We’re getting more abuse from neo-Nazis, they say ‘all refugees are criminals’ and that we’re ‘do-gooders’.”

Germany is taking in more refugees than any other European Union nation and as a result tensions have risen over the government’s immigration policies.

Generally Eritreans and Syrians are granted refugee status when they reach Germany, allowing them to stay there.

The dramatic changes in Germany’s population figure has given rise to far-right marches and more than 200 attacks on shelters for asylum seekers in the first half of this year alone.

Arson attacks

This includes 150 arson and other attacks that have damaged or destroyed shelters making them uninhabitable as towns and cities struggle to house the refugees.

In December, swastikas and anti-immigrant slogans were painted on one shelter that was burned out in Vorra, near Nuremberg.

Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said there has been a rise in violence and it coud increase.

“We’ve seen the number of attacks on refugee housing rise considerably over the past year and we’re concerned that this number will continue to increase. We’ve also seen the propensity to turn to violence rise,” he said

He suggested that Germany’s far-right is using the migrant situation to whip up extremism.

“We’ve seen the far-right extremists on the wane for years. They’re trying to exploit the refugee situation to become politically relevant again,” Mr Maassen said.

However, efforts are being made to counteract the far-right view.

Getting rid of hostility

German conservative MP Martin Patzelt has taken two Eritrean refugees into his home and is helping the young men find jobs locally.

Mr Patzelt, of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said that such initiatives help to “get rid of the polarisation and hostility” towards migrants.

Speaking to German ARD TV, he said: “Sponsorships, to house someone, company, to welcome someone – these small bridges help to give refugees a face and a name, so that they emerge from the anonymous mass of asylum seekers.”