News Report Details Tegel Airport’s Transformation into a Refugee City

Investigative journalist Ann Catherine Palmer’s report sheds light on the hurdles confronting refugees in the Tegel region, situated northwest of Berlin. Tegel, now transformed into an expansive tent city, adheres to a rigid daily schedule, featuring designated meal times offering bread and cold cuts for breakfast, followed by falafel for lunch. Despite this routine, numerous refugees voice discontent regarding the food’s quality.

The area also houses a school called the “Welcome School” for children and youth from the refugee reception center, accommodating up to 300 students. Additionally, there are two schools in the surrounding area of the airport. Human rights organizations label the Tegel Welcome School as “Camp School,” considering the entire Tegel area as a camp complex. Despite the State Office for Refugee Affairs being aware of the conditions in Tegel, there is currently no alternative in Berlin. The Senate is exploring locations for the construction of 16 new container villages.

A team from UNICEF, including their head staff member Ann Skelton, toured the camp to assess how well they’re following the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. An expert group led by UNICEF’s advocacy chief, Sebastian Sedlmayr, will also visit soon to specifically evaluate the conditions for children there.

40% of the 2 million refugees seeking protection are children under the age of 18. According to a study conducted by the German Institute for Human Rights, the conditions experienced by these children in the area are described as “unlivable.” They face numerous challenges in accessing education and psychological support, and they often endure instances of violence and discrimination.

The report reveals a concerning trend: public spaces are often occupied by men consuming alcohol or drugs, leading children and young people to avoid these areas entirely. This raises concerns about their safety and well-being, prompting advocates to emphasize the need for special protections in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Haner Klozung, representing the Tegel Access Center management, expresses, “Given more space, I would establish educational areas for children, facilitating their German language acquisition and completion of school assignments.” This acknowledgement underscores the challenges faced by children in the region. Additionally, the Access Center management mentions the provision of sports fields for physical activities, childcare services in the tents, and opportunities for children to participate in handicrafts and recreational activities until 6 PM.

The report paints a bleak picture of Tegel, describing it as a self-contained world where privacy is nonexistent. Cramped living conditions force 14 people to share a single room, with only flimsy curtains and plastic walls separating them. Women and children are left to wander the common areas without proper clothing, highlighting the lack of basic amenities.

Presently, there are facilities including care centers, a palliative care unit, and a maternity ward where individuals pass away and newborns enter the world. The prevalence of certain diseases, like measles, is notable, and occasional violent altercations occur among residents. Additionally, instances of prostitution and alcohol consumption are reported, necessitating frequent police interventions.

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