German cities warn of growing refugee crisis

In 2022 Germany has seen around a million refugees arrive in the country — mostly from Ukraine. That’s as many as the country saw in 2015 and local authorities are feeling the pressure.

Refugees from Ukraine in Frankfurt
Refugees enter a help centre for Ukrainians in Frankfurt am Main. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

“We want to help, but we soon won’t be able to,” is a phrase German Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser says she keeps hearing.

The Social Democrat minister is holding a summit Tuesday with leaders from German cities and municipalities who say new refugee arrivals—predominantly from Ukraine—are pushing their current resources to the limit.

Around a million people have fled to Germany from Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February. Most are still here, with around 80,000 having left for another country or to return to their homes.

Some researchers are expecting another 250,000 Ukrainian refugees to make their way to Germany next year.

Cities also have their eye on whether Germany will soon see more asylum applications from Iran due to protests there, or what impact Russian men fleeing conscription will have on arrival numbers. Arrivals from Syria alone remain in the tens of thousands.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann of the CSU says over 200,000 people have arrived in his state this year. “That’s already above 2016, when we were in the so-called refugee crisis,” he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper. “Our municipalities are at their limit on accommodation,” he said.

German cities are currently converting state property into accommodation to provide more space.

Dresden is using its trade exhibition hall to house refugees, while Leipzig is planning to put up tents to handle the shortage while it converts gyms. Some smaller communities have converted halls previously used for weddings.

While Berlin used its old Tempelhof airport to cope with refugee arrivals in 2015, authorities in the capital are now discussing whether to open additional terminals at the closed Tegel airport to house refugees.

Berlin says that out of its nearly 30,000 spots for accommodating refugees, it has less than 200 remaining.

READ ALSO: Germany records almost a million Ukrainian refugees

Speaking to public broadcaster ARD’s morning show, Faeser said the federal government is looking to support cities by opening up its own property, including military barracks.

Although the minister promised cities more money to help deal with their capacity issues, she hasn’t yet said how much—and that a new round of support will be decided in November.

“The question of costs must be clarified now,” said Hesse’s Interior Minister Peter Beuth of the CDU, pointing out that the federal government had already announced cost-sharing in April. “The federal government has a central coordination role here. There’s still no sign of that.”

The federal government’s migration commissioner, Reem Alabali-Radovan, says the number of arrivals from Ukraine is currently declining, but warns that “a hard winter of war can change that.”

READ ALSO: ‘Happy to work here’: How refugees in Germany are easing labour shortage

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Germany authorises manufacturers to send Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine

Germany said it had issued authorisation on Friday for Leopard 1 tanks to be sent to Ukraine, in a further boost for Kyiv as it seeks heavier weapons to counter Moscow's forces.

Germany authorises manufacturers to send Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine

Berlin has already said it will provide Ukraine with 14 Leopard 2s from its military stocks, but manufacturers also want to send tanks they have in storage.

“I can confirm… that an export licence has been issued,” government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told a regular press briefing when asked about Leopard 1s.

He declined to give further information, saying more details would likely emerge in the coming days and weeks.

First entering service in the 1960s, the Leopard 1 is the forerunner of the more advanced Leopard 2, which is widely used by armies across Europe.

READ ALSO: Germany gives greenlight for Leopard tank deliveries to Ukraine

German magazine Der Spiegel reported that it concerned 29 Leopard 1s, which were in storage at a military manufacturer.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper meanwhile reported that two manufacturers want to refurbish dozens of Leopard 1s to send them to Ukraine, although they have faced problems in procuring ammunition.

Last month, Berlin finally agreed to sending the powerful German-made Leopards to Ukraine, following weeks of sustained pressure from Kyiv and its European allies.

Under German law, Berlin has to approve the export of the tanks, even in cases when other countries who bought them want to re-export them.

While scores of nations have pledged military hardware for Ukraine in recent weeks, Kyiv has been clamouring for the more sophisticated Leopards, seen as key to punching through enemy lines.