we have enough housing for refugeesbut we have nothing else to offer. This is what representatives of the authorities of the East German city of Cottbus, an hour and a half drive from the German capital, say to a DW correspondent. The city has managed to provide the Ukrainians who have arrived in recent months with full-fledged housing, not temporary containers to live in – but this is only the first step in arranging a person in a new place, local authorities say. up. And what about integrating newcomers into the life of society, providing access to the education system and medical care?
“The federal authorities are covering our costs of providing asylum, but not the associated costs,” said Stefanie Kaygusuz-Schurmann, the city’s head of education and integration. We don’t have enough interpreters, she says, we rely on volunteer activism and medical practices struggle to keep up with their regular customers and make time for refugees.
Cottbus, which is very close to the German-Polish border, has become one of the centers for Ukrainian refugees coming to Germany in recent months. Many of the roughly one million Ukrainians who had fled to Germany before Russian aggression came here via this city of about 100,000 inhabitants. About 1.5 thousand refugees stayed here, about a third of them are of compulsory school age. In other words, about 500 children with different language levels and a lot of psychological trauma should quickly be given the opportunity to study in institutions of the local school system.Cottbus has become one of the centers for Ukrainian refugees coming to GermanyPhoto: Andreas Franke/dpa/photo alliance
At the same time, the shortcomings of this system in the city were known long before the start of a large-scale war in Ukraine. The city government has always seen the solution to the problem in the employment of new teachers and social workers, which, however, is hardly possible in a small border town and without financial support from the federal government. “Wealthy Germany can do anything,” said Jan Glosman, spokesman for the mayor of Cottbus, “but the money within rich Germany is unevenly distributed.”
Just as unequal as the refugees. Now in Germany, the distribution of Ukrainians arriving in the country takes place at the level of the federal countries, taking into account the number of inhabitants of each country and their income. For example, about 21% of all refugeeswhile in the East German state of Brandenburg, where Cottbus is located – only 3%.
The formula probably looks good on paper – but by early September 12 of the 16 German states had already reported that they were on the brink of their capabilities, according to the German Interior Ministry. And the mayor of Cottbus announced in mid-October that the city is temporarily suspending – until the end of the year – the reception and long-term placement of new refugees, also demanding a fairer distribution system for those coming to Germany at an all-German and all-European level. . There has been no official response to this statement yet, DW Glosman said. “The federal government has no clear plan,” said Kaiguzuts-Shurman, who also criticizes European structures. For example, Poland and Germany each have more than million Ukrainian refugeeswhile France – the second largest country in the EU in terms of population and GDP – is only 100 thousand.Cottbus has temporarily suspended the reception and long-term housing of new refugeesPhoto: William Glucroft/DW
However, in October, Germany hosted the first meeting between federal and state authorities to discuss the situation. German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser announced the expansion of the refugee housing program but has not yet been able to name the exact amount of funding. Specific figures are expected to be announced at the next meeting in November.
“We (Germany. — Ed.) More refugees have already been taken in than in the entire record year of 2015,” said Gerald Knaus of the European Stability Initiative (ESI) think tank. “By the way, one of the goals of the Russian authorities is precisely to attack critical infrastructure and civilian centers in Ukraine in order to encourage as many people as possible to become refugees.” To this we must add those coming to Germany from Afghanistan, Iran, as well as Russians fleeing the mobilization that Germany and the European Union need to “be ready,” Knaus adds.
However, not everyone in Cottbus is in favor of a temporary halt to the reception of refugees in the city. It’s an “unfortunate” decision, says Enas Taktak, who came to Cottbus from Syria about 8 years ago and now works for a small non-profit organization dedicated to helping refugees. infrastructure. These shortcomings have long been known and have nothing to do with migratory flows resulting from the wars in Syria and Ukraine. “The state needs to figure out why there are so few resources in some areas,” Enas says. “We all know that the education system in Brandenburg is bad. And the refugees are not to blame.”