Exemplary reception of refugees: Nordhorn’s tour de force – taz.de

Exemplary reception of refugees: Nordhorn’s tour de force – taz.de

The small town of Nordhorn did everything right. There are no collective accommodations for refugees here. A site visit before the refugee summit.

Refugee accommodation in exhibition hall 9 New large refugee accommodation in exhibition hall 9 at the exhibition center in Hanover

Collective accommodation in Hanover: Such facilities have not yet been used in Nordhorn Photo: Bernd Günther/imago

NORTH HORN taz | Are all municipalities groaning under the burden of housing refugees? Well, not all municipalities, one could say, paraphrasing Asterix. “We even requested refugees from time to time,” says Frank Rawers from the social affairs department in the city of Nordhorn casually.

But he didn’t get any. In all municipalities in Lower Saxony, only a few refugees are currently arriving, the state has exceeded its quota, and the federal government is currently not allocating any new quotas. Therefore, in January, the news of empty collective accommodation in various districts and municipalities accumulated. And the municipal umbrella organizations complain that they are left with the maintenance costs. This constant up and down is not only logistically the greatest challenge for the municipalities – it is also difficult to convey to the citizens.

In this respect, the small snapshot from Nordhorn is perhaps a bit unfair: You just have a little breather here and of course the accommodation here is also a huge effort. At the same time, the small town on the Dutch border with its 56,600 inhabitants has done a lot right – and now has to hope that the allocation policy doesn’t trip it up.

So far, Nordhorn has succeeded in accommodating all refugees decentrally, in private apartments, as is always demanded by the refugee council, among others. So far there have been 854 refugees, 1.5 percent of the population.

summit meeting On Thursday, representatives of the federal states and municipalities will meet with Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser. The topic is the accommodation and care of refugees. The municipalities had originally called for a conference with Chancellor Scholz and Federal Finance Minister Lindner, whose approval is necessary for financial concessions from the federal government. However, the federal government did not agree to this.

overload Municipalities and federal states have been complaining for a long time that taking in and caring for refugees is exceeding their capacities. Hesse’s Prime Minister Boris Rhein (CDU) said that Mirror on Wednesday that some of the communities no longer knew “how to accommodate the people”. In 2022, around 218,000 people in Germany applied for asylum. In addition, there were probably around a million Ukrainians who fled to Germany after the Russian attack. Although they do not go through the regular asylum procedure, the municipalities are also responsible for their accommodation and care.

requirements Above all, the federal states and municipalities want more money from the federal government, and there is talk of covering the housing and health costs of the refugees. Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Hermann (CSU) called for a “tripling of federal participation”. Helmut Dedy, Managing Director of the German Association of Cities, also spoke out in favor of the federal government building up its own reception capacities. Federal Interior Minister Faeser recently indicated that she wanted to accommodate the federal states and local authorities, but that the financial leeway was limited. The federal government has already pledged an extra 2.75 billion euros for the care of refugees for 2023. (fre)

And they really do live all over the city, as Ulrich van der Veen-Liese from the Building Department proudly emphasizes. Not all in the same neighborhood, not all kids in the same schools. That, says city planning officer Thimo Weitemeier, was one of the most important lessons from 2015 and the years that followed: to spread the burden on as many shoulders as possible – both in administration and in urban society.

So far, however, Nordhorn has also been fortunate to be able to mobilize enough living space – things are different in many metropolitan areas. Landlords are still contacting him with offers, says van der Veen-Liese. There are entrepreneurs who make guest apartments available, private individuals who give up the granny flat that they reserved for the grown-up children.

The city is popular as a tenant, not only because it pays solidly, but also because it sends out its own team of caretakers to fix, prepare and furnish the apartments before they move in and after they move out.

They have increased the caretaker team, as well as the city’s own team of social workers, with people who speak Russian, Arabic and Kurdish. After all, you don’t have time to wait weeks for craftsmen and you need people who can gently guide the newcomers through the initial administrative marathon.

Collective accommodation for everyone is the worst solution

Mayor Thomas Berling (SPD) explains the fact that there is so much willingness to help in Nordhorn because the city has already experienced numerous waves of immigration. “It started with the boom in the textile industry in the 1920s and 1930s, which attracted workers from all over the world, then after the war the displaced people came, later the guest workers and so on,” he says.

Sometimes, says Stadtbaurat Weitemeier, you’re just lucky that two crises overlap: The city came across a property with apartments that was actually supposed to be demolished by chance. However, due to the interest rate trend and the uncertainties surrounding the construction costs, the project developer put the new building project on hold for the time being – and let the city rent the apartments. They then wrote to other project developers in the region – and promptly acquired more apartments.

Initially, the district had converted the district sports hall into a collective accommodation and thus provided the urgently needed buffer. In the meantime, the city itself has taken over a commercial property and converted it into collective accommodation, which, however, is currently empty.

Practitioners estimate that you need two to three months in advance to get private apartments up and running and to occupy them sensibly. This is difficult when the assignments always come in batches and sometimes there are only days between the notification and the arrival of the next fully occupied bus.

At the same time, collective accommodation is the worst solution for everyone involved: It costs more to provide it because you not only have to service the building itself, but also the contracts with the service providers for security, kitchen and social care. The refugees suffer from the constant marshalling yard, the lack of privacy, the conflicts that inevitably arise when you cradle a bunch of people, some of whom are traumatized. And even the indispensable volunteers will eventually be overwhelmed.

“If you have a family down the street that needs help, there are always a few neighbors who will. If there are three, four, five families, it will be difficult at some point, ”says the town hall, which has long been governed by the SPD. And successful integration is the top priority; after all, the city isn’t doing it completely altruistically. “We have entrepreneurs from all kinds of industries sitting here all the time who complain about the lack of skilled workers,” says Weitemeier.

However, they have already noticed how quickly the mood threatens to change. When the state of Lower Saxony announced higher allocations in the fall, they frantically cleared parts of the youth center here. That didn’t sit well with the local Facebook groups. When the refugees stayed away, the city quickly reversed this.

Hardly any refugees have arrived for three months now, but everyone suspects that this will soon change again. If the city from large refugee summit in the home of the Federal Minister of the Interior If I could wish for something, it would probably be this: more advance notice, more planning, better a steady stream of newcomers than these absurd waves. But nobody here knows exactly how.

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