No government in Europe could have been prepared for this. This war has a good two weeks. 2.4 million people have already left Ukraine, some experts estimate it could be as many as ten million. Europe is at the beginning of the largest movement of refugees since the Second World War. Facing this challenge together is a historic task. Germany has an important role to play in this.
Home Secretary Nancy Faeser cannot be expected to have an immediate solution to everything these days. But one can very well expect her to try to get ahead of the situation and not just react. Otherwise, the mistakes of the years 2015 and later threaten to repeat themselves.
[Alle aktuellen Nachrichten zum russischen Angriff auf die Ukraine bekommen Sie mit der Tagesspiegel-App live auf ihr Handy. Hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen.]
The biggest challenge at the moment is the distribution of the refugees, in Europe, but also in Germany. Admittedly, this is not an easy task. Ukrainians with a biometric passport enjoy freedom of movement in the EU and can stay here for up to 90 days without a visa. Nobody can force you to register.
Many are currently staying with friends or family. The receptivity of the population is also enormous. Only some of the people who arrive directly contact the authorities. In the coming days, however, this proportion is likely to increase. Because now more and more refugees arrive who don’t know anyone here.
More about the war in Ukraine on Tagesspiegel Plus:
Currently, Berlin is bearing the brunt of Germany. The fact that Berlin’s ruling mayor, Franziska Giffey, has already warned of the danger of a “disaster” and urged greater involvement of the federal government is not a good sign. Chaos, including loss of control, must be avoided. Otherwise, the willingness to help among the population can quickly turn to frustration.
Putin wants to destabilize Europe
Minister Faeser has reacted. In Berlin and Frankfurt (Oder) there are buses that take refugees to alternative destinations. Faeser announced on Friday that people without accommodation should now be distributed according to the so-called Königstein key. Berlin would take five percent of the people. Municipalities must also be supported by the federal government. It’s good that this has been reset.
Do not be under any illusions: Putin’s massive bombing of cities in Ukraine is not just about demoralizing the population. The escape move he triggers is also part of his plan. It is about destabilizing Europe.
Germany should take on a coordinating role
It is a stroke of luck that this has not been achieved so far. Poland – a country that has so far shown little willingness to accept refugees – has already granted shelter to more than a million people. The small and very poor European Republic of Moldova has taken in more refugees from Ukraine per population than any other country.
But there is also the risk of overloading. Migration expert Gerald Knaus rightly pointed out that it is not enough for countries like Spain or Portugal to declare themselves willing to host people. The refugees, he says, have to be brought there on special trains rather than making the long journey alone.
As a country in the heart of Europe and with Berlin as an important center, Germany should take on a coordinating role. The federal government must help control the large flow of refugees. A fair distribution of refugees guarantees decent accommodation and makes integration possible. What happens when states are left alone with migration has been demonstrated for years at the external borders of the EU, in states like Italy and Greece.
The new unity in Europe and the willingness to help can only be sustained as long as the situation remains manageable everywhere. When control is lost, the mood can change.