According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than two million people have already fled war-torn Ukraine. More than half of them are in Poland. So far, more than 64,000 war refugees from Ukraine have found refuge in Germany, but soon there could be many more.
Already last week, photos and videos from Berlin’s central train station showed hundreds of Berliners offering refugees private housing. But anyone looking to welcome refugees into their home should consider a few things. Here are answers to the most important questions.
I live in Germany: can I accept refugees?
Yes. Ukrainians can enter Germany without a visa, and they receive “temporary protection” under the Aliens Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz), for one year at a time. They can live wherever they want. Although Hamburg, for example, declares that it is primarily the city’s responsibility to house refugees, for example in refugee centers or shelters, private individuals can also offer assistance to Ukrainians. Those who would like to host refugees can, for example, apply to the municipality, aid organizations or use dedicated online platforms such as unterkunft-ukraine.de.
Do you need the consent of the landlord in Germany?
No, says the German Tenants’ Association (Deutscher Mieterbund). Those who live in rented apartments can take in refugees for now. If the stay lasts six to eight weeks, tenants do not have to ask their landlord for permission (the so-called “erlaubnisfreier Besuch”). “However, if the visit lasts longer, the landlord must be informed and asked for permission so as not to risk termination of the lease,” – the association explains.
How to deal with people who have experienced war?
Those with experience in helping refugees warn against naivety. Diana Henniges, founder of the Berlin-based citizens’ initiative “Moabit hilft,” told the daily Tagesspiegel that everyone should ask themselves, “Can I deal with the fact that some mother waits for days, weeks and months, crying or depressed, for a phone call from a husband who does not come? That a child may wet the bed every night? That a man walks in the kitchen early every morning because he can’t sleep anymore?” Cohabitation can work out well, but it’s a good idea to think through these issues in advance.
Who needs to take care of the registration?
Initially, Ukrainians can live in Germany without registration; it is not required for the first 90 days. However, war refugees from Ukraine must register in order to be eligible for social benefits under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz). This provides “funds for subsistence and medical care,” the Federal Ministry of the Interior explains. If necessary, war refugees can pay their rent with these social benefits. Registration can be done at reception desks or foreigners’ offices. There is no legal obligation for aid workers to accompany and support refugees during visits to the offices.
Can I accept children alone?
Alone children and young people require special protection. For this reason, “unaccompanied minors are taken into care in the first instance by the locally competent youth office,” – reads the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, BAMF). Daniela Behrens (SPD), Lower Saxony’s minister for social affairs, said anyone wishing to take in unaccompanied children or young people should contact their local youth office (Jugendamt).
Are there any difficulties related to the coronavirus pandemic?
As of late February, Ukraine is no longer considered a high-risk area. The Federal Ministry of the Interior reports that as a result, there is only a requirement to take a coronavirus test before entry, but there is no longer a quarantine and notification requirement. Voluntary testing for COVID-19 is to be offered upon entry into Germany, and those with symptoms of the disease should receive medical attention.
Will refugees receive psychological help?
War refugees from Ukraine become entitled to medical care upon registration. The Bundesweite Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Psychosozialen Zentren für Flüchtlinge und Folteropfer (Baff) has developed guidelines for dealing with traumatized refugees, entitled “Traumasensibler und empowernder Umgang mit Geflüchteten”.