The ruling mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey (SPD), does not want to declare a disaster in Berlin. “We are not yet at the point of a disaster. If it is possible to distribute the refugees in federal solidarity and with the support of the federal government, we will not need this instrument,” Giffey told the Tagesspiegel.
After a special session of the Senate on Wednesday night, the ruling mayor called for the Bundeswehr to be deployed to Berlin to support the country in view of the large number of refugees arriving. “It remains the case that Berlin is the hardest hit. This challenge becomes even more. That is why we need the support of the federal government and we will ask for the support of the Bundeswehr,” Giffey said.
A spokesman for Senator Katja Kipping’s Senate integration administration (left) said on Thursday that a formal request for administrative assistance would go to the Federal Ministry of Defense via the interior administration. “We need human support, we also need technical support, for example sanitary facilities and shower containers,” she said.
The request must be communicated to the federal government on Thursday, said the senator responsible for the Interior, Iris Spranger (SPD) in the House of Representatives. “As in 2015, we are requesting administrative assistance from the Bundeswehr,” Spranger said of the emergency. 40 Bundeswehr aides would be needed. You must help the State Office for Refugee Affairs (LAF) with the registration. “We have all available options in use. Berlin can call on the Bundeswehr because the country is particularly affected by refugees from Ukraine,” Spranger said.
Criticism of federal policy
There was clear criticism of the Berlin Senate’s demand from federal politics. “The #Bundeswehr is not an extended aid organization. Right now we need the Bundeswehr for its main tasks,” the chairwoman of the defense committee in the Bundestag Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann wrote on Twitter. For these tasks it exists, among other things, civil disaster control.
Giffey himself also limited the demand for a Bundeswehr deployment to Berlin on Thursday. A deployment of the troops “could be possible”, he said in the House of Representatives, if not by the Bundeswehr, then by the Federal Agency for Technical Assistance (THW). The support of the federal government in the coming days is “elementary” so that Berlin can continue to cope with the situation.
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According to Senate circles, there are doubts as to whether the Bundeswehr will come to the aid of the country in the short term in the current situation. The Federal Ministry of Defense itself was only evasive when asked. Since no request for administrative assistance has been received so far, it cannot be evaluated, a spokesman said.
The Berlin state association of the THW stated that it was “in regular rounds of voting with the Senate”, a spokesman said. The THW is already active in setting up arrival centers at the Karl Bonhoeffer Psychiatric Clinic and at the former Tegel Airport. “So far, however, there have been no further specific orders or requests for administrative assistance,” the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the situation with refugee accommodation in Berlin remains tense. As many as 15,000 people currently arrive every day, Kipping said. The senator for Social Affairs assumes that “the numbers will increase significantly” if “humanitarian corridors” are opened in Ukraine.
Desperately wanted accommodation
So far, around 8,900 people arriving from Ukraine have stayed in the country’s accommodation in Berlin. Due to the large numbers, the Senate and LAF are desperately seeking more housing options. Giffey and Kipping announced five additional housing locations Wednesday night after the Senate session. The plan is to accommodate people at locations on Salvador-Allende-Strasse, Kurt-Schumacher-Damm, Zossener Strasse, Rheinpfalz-Allee and Rennbahnstrasse, Kipping said.
According to information from Tagesspiegel, these are adaptations that the LAF is preparing. Regardless of this, the Senate crisis team is also looking for additional locations in the short term. On Wednesday night, people were quickly accommodated in the Kreuzberg party hall and in the small hall in the Holzmarkt area. It is not yet clear if the two event rooms will be available for long-term accommodation.
However, the Senate sees more need: that is why not only the arrival center in Tegel with up to 3,000 places is being prepared. “We have decided that, if possible, we will also use the trade show as a capacity tonight,” Giffey said on the House floor. “We also include Tempelhof airport in our considerations. A large donation warehouse has already been set up there in a hangar.” And there is also a very close exchange with Brandenburg on the accommodation of refugees.
From now on, former THW President Albrecht Broemme will be responsible for establishing the locations and overall coordination of the accommodation. “The experience that Albrecht Broemme brings with him is very good for this,” Giffey said Wednesday night. Although Broemme received a positive rapid corona test on Wednesday, “that doesn’t stop him from organizing everything remotely,” the ruling mayor said.