Berlin Berlin’s Senator for Labor and Social Affairs, Katja Kipping (left), calls for professional qualifications to be recognized quickly so that refugees from the Ukraine can be quickly integrated into the labor market. “We have to work together nationwide to find an unbureaucratic solution for the recognition of professional qualifications,” Kipping told the Handelsblatt. “This has to happen quickly, because the people who come to us want to get involved with their work.”
With a view to financing language and integration courses for war refugees, Kipping calls for a fair distribution between the federal, state and local governments. “The refugee costs are a task of national importance,” said the left-wing politician. Kipping sees the attitude of the federal government critically, according to which refugees should be protected under social law under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act. “We want people to be taken care of through the benefits of Social Security Code II,” she said. “With this basic security, access to integration courses, language courses, labor market measures and also to the labor market would be much easier and faster.”
Kipping is skeptical about a possible refugee summit to better coordinate the distribution of refugees. “An escape summit is okay, but it must not be purely a show measure,” she said. It must be clear that the nationwide distribution of refugees is legally binding. “We have repeatedly experienced that people who were distributed according to the Königstein key were sent back to Berlin,” said Kipping. There are cases from the Fallingbostel district in Lower Saxony. “That will not do. That is outrageous towards war refugees.”
Read the entire interview here:
Ms. Kipping, thousands of refugees from the Ukraine reach Berlin every day. How are you currently experiencing the situation?
In Berlin we made advance payments for the federal government for weeks. At the beginning of the flight movement, almost all refugees came to Berlin. That was about 10,000 people per day. Luckily, the situation has eased a bit in the last few days, and between 4,000 and 5,000 people come every day. However, depending on the course of the war, this can change quickly.
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How do you deal with that?
This is not only a major logistical task, but also an emotional one given all the fates. Many people come to us with special needs. People who are sick, people with disabilities, orphans, people in need of high care, people who are heavily pregnant. Putting it all together is an incredible challenge.
Are you satisfied with the federal support?
It took a while to wake up the Bund. You have to say that very clearly. There are individual ministers who have understood the seriousness of the situation. For example, there is a good exchange with Hubertus Heil, the Labor Minister. But with the chancellor, for example, I have the impression that he has not yet internalized that we are dealing with a national task in which everyone must be held accountable.
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Do you understand that, after four weeks of war, the federal government is still struggling to assess the extent of the flight from the Ukraine to Germany?
There are reliable figures from the UN refugee agency UNHCR. I think the federal government now knows the extent of this.
How does the federal government help?
In Berlin, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees supports us with 20 employees in the arrival center. The Bundeswehr is also helping with 80 soldiers. The traffic flows are now partly controlled around Berlin.
How does it work in Berlin: For example, what is offered to a young family in Berlin when they arrive here?
Our aim is for people to get to the Ukraine arrivals center at the former Tegel Airport very quickly by shuttle bus, where they can then be distributed nationwide. Those who remain in Berlin are put in emergency accommodation until registration is complete. Those classified as Section 24 war refugees are entitled to work permits, access to social services, and their children are entitled to a place in school.
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And that works with the work permit?
With the work permit yes. But: We have to work together nationwide to find an unbureaucratic solution for the recognition of professional qualifications. This has to happen quickly, because the people who come to us want to get involved with their work. We cannot procrastinate on this.
Language and integration courses, childcare – all of this costs money. What are your expectations of the federal government in terms of refugee costs?
Refugee costs are a national concern. There will have to be a clear understanding. The costs must be shared fairly between the federal, state and local governments. So far, the federal government has said that people are protected under social law under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act. In our view, this is insufficient.
What do you have in mind?
We want people to be cared for through the benefits of Book II of the Social Code. With this basic security, access to integration courses, language courses, labor market measures and also to the labor market would be much easier and faster. Such a regulation would also lead to a considerable relief for the district social welfare offices.
The federal government must then move here.
I hope the last word has not yet been spoken.
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Would a refugee summit make sense to better coordinate the distribution of refugees, maybe even a refugee crisis team in the Chancellery?
In Berlin we have a crisis team. This is also conceivable at the federal level. An escape summit is okay, but it must not be purely a show measure. It would be more important that we agree on the nationwide distribution of special groups. For example, Jewish communities should come together in places where there is already Jewish life.
It must also be clear that nationwide distribution is legally binding. We have repeatedly experienced that people who were distributed according to the Königstein key were sent back to Berlin. That will not do. That is an insolence towards war refugees.
Who sends refugees back?
Individual counties do that. We have repeatedly heard of cases from the Fallingbostel district in Lower Saxony.
The deputy prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Joachim Stamp, has spoken out in favor of an airlift to fly people out of the contested areas. Does this make sense?
Helping people flee makes sense. Whether an airlift is the right instrument must be assessed by military experts who are better able to assess the situation.
Not only Ukrainians are fleeing. There are also thousands of Russians fleeing from fear of political persecution. Should Germany or the EU help these people?
Anyone in Russia who calls Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine a war now faces a prison sentence of up to 15 years. In this respect, several in Russia are certainly threatened with political persecution. And politically persecuted people, regardless of which country they come from, naturally have a right to asylum.
Are more people from Russia seeking asylum in Berlin?
Overall, we are observing an increase in traditional asylum applications. There will probably be more people from Russia among them in the future.
Are you worried that the great willingness to help will decrease – similar to 2015?
Indeed, we have to think this mammoth task in the long run. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The helpfulness of the many volunteers is enormously important. In Berlin we will have tens of thousands of new Berliners who have fled the war.
Where should these people live? The Berlin housing market is already overloaded.
We have agreed in the Senate to aggressively look at new properties to be built on with housing. We have also changed the building code so that the modular shelters can be built faster.
Ms. Kipping, thank you very much for the interview.
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