It is shortly before noon. The foyer of the Atlas Sporthotel on Mittenwalder Straße in Garmisch-Partenkirchen is busy. Hans Steinbrecher, head of emergency services at the BRK district association, is instructing his employees. Two tables are already ready. They contain coronavirus tests, disinfectants, stationery. Several Caritas workers have gathered in the breakfast room.
War in Ukraine: 100 refugees arrive in Garmisch-Partenkirchen – everyone wants to help
Their job is to organize cash withdrawals. In front of the entrance stands a hotel worker who speaks Ukrainian thanks to her Eastern European roots. Next to her sit two employees of the Foreigners Registration Office. There is a tense wait. No one knows who will get off the bus in a few minutes. Medical care is provided. Many mothers and children are expected. Everyone wants to help. Helpers want to be there when the first transport of about 100 Ukrainian war refugees from Fürstenfeldbruck and Erding arrives in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Entrepreneur Ibrahim Kavun is making his Atlas Sporthotel on Mittenwalder Straße available to them free of charge. Countless video conferences were held in advance,” explains flood administrator Anton Speer. A special coordination group was formed. The additional, very short-term wave of refugees poses a huge challenge for the district.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Only a small part of the war refugees from Ukraine were Ukrainians
The transport was arranged by the federal government and the state. The instructions to the hotel are clear: accommodate Ukrainian war refugees, primarily families with children. As it turns out, however, the group of people with Ukrainian citizenship on the bus with war refugees is small. Six women are asked to go to the reception desk first, one by one. They all have to be tested for coronavirus beforehand, so they are examined and registered. The second group to arrive was a family from Vietnam with young children.
The others were men from Africa and Asia. There is uncertainty, confusion. After all, only war refugees or at least those with “Ukrainian connections” should be given peace to prevent illegal migration. The men are studying in Ukraine and carry proper visas, they explain. Communicating with them is difficult, however, because they speak neither Ukrainian nor Russian. “They are probably learning English,” – speculates a Caritas employee. But even in this language, communication proves very difficult.
The discussion does not end there. In front of the shelter, hotel employees, government officials and Caritas workers meet. Are the men Ukrainian war refugees or migrants? Finally, a decision is made: For the time being, they will all be accepted at the hotel as refugees with ties to Ukraine and will not be taken to another shelter. “We have to let them recover first and then see what happens,” says Stephan Scharf, spokesman for the county board. The next step is to check on the status of the arrivals and where they will be housed.
County Administrator Anton Speer (Free Voters) will also be there in person. He hopes that his district will be able to provide protection especially for those who “are in the greatest need, like mothers and children.” However, he is aware that in the coming days and weeks the authorities will have to deal with a much broader spectrum of newcomers. “Of course, anyone in need is welcome here,” he said.
War refugees from Ukraine will be granted a one-year residence permit
All those who are currently subject to Ukrainian laws will automatically receive a one-year residence permit in Germany. Currently, the county must accept at least 676 of the 100,000 refugees. “But there is no upper limit if there are more than 100,000.” That is why Speer and a coordination group of his office have already traveled to the Isar Valley, the Ammer Valley and the Loisach Valley to find suitable properties. “Because we don’t know how many more people will come,” he said. The district, however, wants to be prepared for that.