Reception center in Buschdorf begins operation City of Bonn expects up to 4,500 refugees

Bonn-Buschdorf · The city administration of Bonn expects to receive up to 4,500 refugees from Urkaine in the next few weeks - the majority of them children and young people who need to be schooled. Meanwhile, a reception center and first point of contact for refugees has started operation in Buschdorf. In an emergency, pets are also allowed to come along.

 Helpers are carrying furniture into what will become the common room.

Helpers are carrying furniture into what will become the common room.

Foto: Martin Wein

It is a number that makes one’s head spin: According to information from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Bonn city administration expects to take in up to 4,500 refugees from Ukraine. It is not only the accommodation that will require unbureaucratic solutions and growing efforts as the war continues. Since at least two-thirds of those arriving are children and young people and are therefore subject to compulsory education once they have been registered, schools will also have to prepare for an influx of 3,000 or more students. Mayor Katja Dörner spoke of an "immense challenge" on Friday. The federal and state governments need to  "create clarity about the distribution of the refugees and the coverage of our costs".

An initial step in the right direction has already been taken. On Friday at 2 p.m., the new reception center for refugees at Ernst-Robert-Curtius-Strasse 12 in Buschdorf began its work. Two hours earlier, helpers were still busy with the final touches in the vacant office building, which the former solar energy entrepreneur Frank Asbeck made available to the city rent-free for six months. Volunteers wearing orange high-visibility vests from the German Red Cross (DRK) were cleaning the floors. Nils Witt, a 19-year-old computer science student, and another helper hauled cabinets into the future common rooms. The Bonn native discovered joy in volunteering after the floods in the Ahr Valley. "You have to do something," he said.

A Covid test is mandatory

German Red Cross refugee coordinator Peter Winter showed Mayor Dörner, social welfare department head Carolin Krause and Red Cross board member Petra Heller the waiting rooms for the obligatory Covid quick tests and the reception area in the foyer. Drink packs, apples and wrapped cookies were already spread out on the tables in the open dining room. "We don't build the beds up until we need them," Winter said. 50 people can be accommodated on the first floor for the time being. As soon as there is a container for showers, 80 more places can be added on the upper floor. In the short term, the only thing missing is the mandatory smoke detectors.

Krause was visibly pleased with the progress. "I've never had a key in my hand so quickly," she said. Two weeks ago, Asbeck had emailed her during a meeting. Less than twelve hours later, everything was settled. At first glance, the accommodation in a quiet commercial area near the northern cemetery without a direct bus connection seems somewhat remote. "But many refugees actually come by car," Krause explained. Parking spaces are available for them. Others, he said, will be brought to Buschdorf by cab from the first port of call at Windeckbunker. Those who do not get accommodation immediately can stay here for a few days and, in an emergency, even bring their beloved pet with them.

So far 1,573 refugees from Ukraine are registered

Four weeks after the beginning of the Russian attack, city employees have already registered 1,573 refugees from Ukraine by Friday morning. The administration has accommodated 486 of them in hotels. 243 are living in municipal shelters for the time being. 221 are in private accommodations. In the former Chamber of Agriculture in Roleber, the city wants to create 400 more places by the beginning of April.  In the King Fahd Academy in Lannesdorf there should be space eventually for an additional 120 persons.

In the process, all of those staying in municipal facilities will have to undergo health screening, Krause emphasized. For example, an X-ray exam should rule out the possibility of undetected cases of tuberculosis. Vaccinations against Covid-19 and measles for children are also being offered, she said. "However, the number of unvaccinated is not as large as feared. Many vaccinations were registered centrally and not confirmed with a vaccination card," Krause explains. She says the situation is similar for measles. In Ukraine, vaccinations are given at different times of life than in Germany.

Registration in Buschdorf is not yet possible

Krause and Dörner made no secret of the fact that they would like to see simplified procedures for the registration of refugees. "After all, many come with their passports. The requirements are too high," Dörner said. For example, it is not possible to complete the registration in Buschdorf, since there are different systems for registration, immigration and social security. Moreover, due to many Covid-related absences, additional staff could not be found. At least, he said, it should be possible to book an appointment at the initial contact point. "After all, this is all new territory for us," Dörner emphasized. In the refugee wave of 2015, the state had organized the initial reception for refugees.

Bonn's schools have yet to integrate most of the refugee children and young people. As of Wednesday, only 70 of them had been received by Bonn's elementary schools, mostly into regular classes. 95 children and young people are currently being placed in preparatory classes at lower secondary level. 13 young people are on the waiting list for the international remedial classes of the vocational colleges. However, many children continue to be taught online via smartphone or tablet by their trusted teachers in Ukraine, aid workers reported. For that reason, a stable wi-fi network is their greatest wish for the first point of entry where refugees are received. And this has already been requested.

(Orig. text: Martin Wein / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)

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