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Krefeld builds a tent city for 1,000 refugees from Ukraine

Refugee camp on the old Forstwald barracks site
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Tent city can accommodate 1000 people

A reception facility for refugees from the Ukraine has been set up at a rapid pace on the old Forstwald barracks. It is only an interim solution, but offers full coverage. The goal is rapid integration.

The occupancy of the new transitional reception facility for refugees from Ukraine on the site of the old barracks in Forstwald is to begin in the coming days. “If everything went perfectly, we would bring the first people here tomorrow, Thursday. But I don’t want to commit myself. There is still some work to be done, that’s why I say ‘in the next few days’,” says city director Markus Schön during an inspection of the facilities that have already been erected on Wednesday.


  Four bunk beds are set up in each of the accommodation units.

Four bunk beds are set up in each of the accommodation units.
Photo: Lammertz, Thomas (lamb)

Four large tents with living boxes, one with washrooms and one with a canteen will accommodate up to 1,000 people from the war zone. “Currently, the need is extremely difficult to assess. The first wave of refugees just seems to have died down a bit. But that can change daily, depending on the war situation in Ukraine. In any case, we are well prepared with this facility,” says Mayor Frank Meyer.


  The need for accommodation is currently difficult to assess.  In Fortswald one is prepared for 1000 people.

The need for accommodation is currently difficult to assess. In Fortswald one is prepared for 1000 people.
Photo: Lammertz, Thomas (lamb)

In the tents there are separate areas between 20 and 25 square meters. “These each contain a table, four chairs, lockers and four double beds, so that eight people can be accommodated,” explains Stephan Simon, Deputy District Manager of Malteser in the Aachen district. They took over the running of the facility. Maurizio Cremonesi is the chief manager. He is experienced in managing initial reception facilities. “I am really looking forward to the project. From 2015 to 2021 I managed a reception facility of a similar kind in Düren. This experience is good for me here,” he says. Accordingly, when putting together his team, he paid particular attention to language skills. “We work here in a three-shift system, so that around 15 people are available as contact persons 24 hours a day. At least two thirds of them speak a relevant language, i.e. Ukrainian, Russian or the related Polish. At least every employee speaks English,” he says.


  View of the shower and washrooms in the transitional quarters in the lightweight halls.

View of the shower and washrooms in the transitional quarters in the lightweight halls.
Photo: Lammertz, Thomas (lamb)

The facility is not a luxury. “But first of all, it’s about giving people a roof over their heads, food, medical care and so on. It currently looks as if they will soon be covered by the SGBII. Then finding housing would be much easier. First of all, it is important to relieve the existing facilities and free up the gyms,” explains Schön.

Children and young people would initially be schooled on site and should soon be integrated into the German school system. Participation in online lessons from Ukraine is not planned. “It seems to work well technically, but the children are required to go to school here. The state makes the specifications. But I think it’s the right thing to do in terms of integration and language acquisition,” says the city manager.

The location of the facility is a bit out of the way, “but there is a bus stop right in front of the door and the train station a few meters away. People can move around freely and get to the city easily,” says Schön.

Purchases are not a problem, but not absolutely necessary either. “We offer full service here. There is food three times a day and drinks 24 hours a day,” explains Simon. The connection is good for official visits. “Registration in terms of immigration law can soon take place on site. This is the most time-consuming administrative process. For this purpose, the state provides us with five mobile picking stations, which we have to staff. This will also happen, as will a medical facility, not least as a vaccination offer,” Schön continues.

The fairly quick and uncomplicated construction also has something to do with the experiences from 2015. “What we learned back then, we can call on now. The plans were still in the drawer and many structures have been preserved. That is now paying off,” says Meyer. Nevertheless, it is a feat. “The respect for Poland and the people there is all the greater. What the country is doing is incredible. That has to be said, especially against the background of the criticism of the past few years.”

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