Accessibility links

Berlin Welfare System Overwhelmed by Thousands of Migrants 

  • Henry Ridgwell

Migrants queue on a street to enter the compound outside the Berlin Office of Health and Social Affairs (LAGESO) for their registration process in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 9, 2015.

Migrants queue on a street to enter the compound outside the Berlin Office of Health and Social Affairs (LAGESO) for their registration process in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 9, 2015.

Local volunteers say Berlin’s social welfare system for refugees is being overwhelmed by the all the migrants applying for asylum. The volunteers are urging local authorities to address what they describe as ‘inhuman’ conditions at the central office for registration.

Tensions rise as hundreds of refugees cram into long lines outside Berlin’s Social Services office, where the migrants’ dreams of a new life in Germany are often first confronted with reality.

Huge tents have been erected to process the applications for state aid like welfare payments and health vouchers.

WATCH: Berlin Welfare System Overwhelmed by Numbers Of Migrants

Afghan refugee Khaudnazar has been waiting since 8 o’clock in the morning. Each time he gets to the front of the line, he says he is told to come back tomorrow.

“Morning I come to here, go to the office, and here is take the turn at the counter and come back tomorrow. I come here tomorrow, all they speak, next time come tomorrow," said Khaudnazar.

The chaos at the center - known by its German acronym LaGeSo - has been going on for months.

"I have been here 24 days with no help, and no money," said Mohamed, a teenager from Afghanistan.

Teams of helpers distribute warm drinks and food. Public donations of clothing arrive by the hour, to be sorted by volunteer refugees and locals. Kurt Kettler runs the volunteer organization known as ‘Moabit Hilft’.

“It’s winter time in Germany now, and we still have people arriving without shoes, babies without shoes and jackets or gloves," said Kettler.

Kettler says the German government is failing in its duty of care to the refugees.

“Germany cannot take all of the people, obviously, but we have the financial power, I mean the European Union has it. They should be a little bit more flexible and in these crises they have to be a lot quicker," he said.

Germany’s bureaucracy is straining under the weight of the numbers of refugees - threatening to cripple the systems designed to provide the most basic care.

XS
SM
MD
LG