A trip highlight for many fellows was our guided tour through Dresden’s asylum seeker and refugee housing facility. The tour was led by Peter Darmstadt, a local leading government official concerning asylum, and two representatives of the German Red Cross. Atlantic Expedition Fellows were given significant access to the facility, including classrooms, dining halls, and the registration office.
Asylum seekers housed at the facility stay there for 1-6 months, at which point they return to their country of origin or transition to German communities. The facility residents are usually evenly split between minors, married couples and single men. Mr. Darmstadt and the Red Cross officials detailed that asylum seekers are taught daily. Class topics include culture, for example women self-expression in Western countries, geography, and practical skills such as how to ride the bus in Germany.
(We have not taken more pictures for privacy and security reasons)
Mr. Darmstadt and the German Red Cross also gave a presentation on the work of the asylum facility during the European Migrant Crisis, from July 2015 to March 2016. At that point the refugees and asylum seekers at the facility were beyond capacity compared to the current 10% occupied rate. In response to these vast numbers, the facility went from utilizing tents to large barrack-style rooms to substantially increasing apartment space. At this time the German Red Cross was in the unusual position of being attacked from both the right via Pegida and the left which thought living conditions for refugees were not good enough. The latter opinion changed as the facilities increasingly opened up and the public saw living conditions that were reasonably.
Our time at the asylum facility ended with the staff and fellows reflecting on what needed to change in German migration and integration policy. All staff present stated employment resources for those granted asylum were insufficient. They also emphasized the importance of refugees learning German and how language acquisition programs should be incentivized once they transition to German cities. Much of the facility’s work is dependent upon volunteers such as medical students to operate first aid and translators of Arabic. This support will continue to be necessary for community integration. Lastly, the staff mentioned minor security concerns of not validating asylum-seekers’ country of origin. Standards of information gathering would need to be improved in Germany to ensure all refugees are legitimate and successfully processed.