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Reiner Berchtold on coping with the current refugee crisis

2022-05-21T18:11:03.733Z

Many citizens take care of war refugees from Ukraine - including Reiner Berchtold. For him, this is the second refugee crisis after 2015 that he is helping out.



Many citizens take care of war refugees from Ukraine - including Reiner Berchtold.

For him, this is the second refugee crisis after 2015 that he is helping out.

Wolfratshausen/Geretsried – Since the arrival of the first war refugees from Ukraine in mid-March, many residents of the district have been doing voluntary work.

One of them is the former mayor of Wolfratshausen, Reiner Berchtold.

He was there when the first refugees arrived in Geretsried.

After 2015, this is the second refugee crisis for him that he is helping to overcome.

Is it better this year than it was seven years ago?

The former police officer (67) reveals this in an interview.

Mr. Berchtold, where did you volunteer in 2015?

Berchtold:

I worked for the government of Upper Bavaria from late 2015 to early 2016.

In the Bayern barracks in Munich, I registered refugees who at the time mainly came from Afghanistan and Syria.

How did it come about that you were involved in registration again this year?

Berchtold:

I responded to a press release from the district office and offered my help.

A day later I got an email that I should come to Geretsried on March 13th, a Sunday, around 10:30 am.

The first refugees were supposed to arrive there at the gymnasium of the middle school.

It was like that in the end.

Almost 50 people, mostly women with children, got off the bus.

A Chinese student studying in Ukraine was also there, as was a family from Moldova.

How did the understanding work?

Berchtold:

In the beginning there were only a few interpreters.

Someone from security who spoke Russian helped us out.

Because we couldn't do anything with the Cyrillic characters in the passports.

The newcomers were screened, assigned beds and recorded.

For this purpose, the passports were collected and lists were drawn up for the residents' registration office in Geretsried.

I would say it took us two or three hours to register.

Could the whole thing have been more organized?

Berchtold:

From my point of view, everything was very well prepared.

The head of the caretaker pool at the district office is a very committed man who was already involved in the refugee crisis in 2015/2016.

On Friday the message came that refugees would come on Sunday.

Set-up was scheduled for Saturday morning.

Everything was ready just after noon on Saturday.

That was really a great achievement.

During the process, I tried to bring in my experience from the Bayern barracks.

When you start recording, the most important thing is to have the papers and to be able to assign the people.

So in which section they come, where their bed is and so on.

That was followed, and things went relatively well.

You have probably been pestered with questions by the refugees.

Berchtold:

The question "Where can we change money?" came up very often.

But we didn't know that either.

The banks did not want the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia.

The Russian ruble was also initially blocked.

But the problem has been solved for hryvnia these days.

It didn't stop with the registration of refugees.

You have also been looking after a Ukrainian family for two months.

How did that happen?

Berchtold:

The contact actually came about through the former interpreter from Brody, the friendship town of Wolfratshausen in western Ukraine.

She has German ancestors and moved to Geretsried some time ago and also does voluntary work.

She asked me if I could support a Ukrainian family who found refuge in Geretsried with the formalities.

Of course I said yes.

Who exactly are you taking care of?

Berchtold:

It is a mother with a daughter and mother-in-law from the city of Kharkiv, very close to the Russian border.

The mother's husband is in the military.

The three are housed with a single father who has a house and was happy to take in the family.

I help them with matters with the authorities, most recently it was about applying for a residence permit.

Every second or third day there are sheets to fill out.

In the meantime, the Ukrainians have also received the first forms from the job center so that they can apply for basic security benefits.

These applications are bilingual.

That's a great relief.

Does the help from the authorities also reach the refugees?

Berchtold:

The payment of the benefit by the asylum office did not work at first.

The notification stated that the support would be paid in cash.

But it was not explicitly stated whether the money was available directly from the office or somewhere else.

Then it was said that the payment was made in cash at the district office.

Then there was the information that the payment will be processed via the cities.

This was revised again because the data comparison did not work.

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Keeping track of things is not easy.

Berchtold:

Yes.

These are things that really shouldn't happen again in this refugee crisis.

This should not be a reproach to the staff in the offices.

They have to shoulder the whole thing in addition to the corona pandemic, often reacting quickly and at short notice.

How does the payment of benefits work for Ukrainians now?

Berchtold:

You speak to the district office every Monday and, after your identity has been checked, you are given a check card.

With that you go to the ATM in the office and get your money paid out.

Pretty cumbersome for someone who doesn't live in Bad Tölz.

Berchtold:

That could really be made more customer-friendly.

I don't want to burden every small community with this, but the cities of Wolfratshausen, Geretsried and Bad Tölz could already take over the payment.

Her Ukrainian protégés have been living in Geretsried for two months now.

Are they well integrated?

Berchtold:

As far as the initial period is concerned, the integration went quite well.

The eight-year-old daughter now wants to go to school.

The mother is 39 years old and definitely wants to work.

But for that she would have to learn German first.

So far we have communicated via a voice app.

Now there is a course on Fridays in Geretsried run by volunteers who teach the refugees German.

Now the BFZ (vocational training center of the Bavarian economy, editor's note) will probably also offer German and integration courses.

Then nothing should stand in the way of the job search.

Berchtold:

Some Ukrainians are waiting for the state to write to them about a job.

That was probably the case in the Eastern Bloc countries.

But it's different with us, personal initiative is also required, and I had to convey that first.

The mother-in-law is 59 years old and was already retired in Ukraine.

According to German law, she would still have to work.

We'll have to wait and see how that turns out.

To be on the safe side, we applied to the job center for basic security.

Where do you see the problem in overcoming the refugee crisis?

Berchtold:

Certain changes still come from the ministries at relatively short notice and have to be implemented extremely quickly.

That was the case with the refugee crisis in 2015, during the corona pandemic and now.

The employees in the administration are then the ones who suffer.

During my training as a police inspector, it was said: React to a focal point with a focus.

I think that says it all.

When extreme situations arise, everything has to be prepared and temporarily subordinated.

Community accommodation cannot be the long-term solution either.

People will stay longer than they thought because the war in Ukraine will continue.

A certain part will perhaps want to live here with us forever.

What is your conclusion after two months of the refugee crisis in Germany?

Berchtold:

For the relatively large number of refugees from Ukraine, we managed it well on the whole - thanks to the support of numerous volunteers.

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Source: merkur

All news articles on 2022-05-21

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