Frequently asked questions
How many refugees live in Heidelberg?
There are two groups of refugees in Heidelberg:
Refugees allocated to the local authority:
Heidelberg currently has around 450 refugees who have been allocated to the city of Heidelberg by Baden-Württemberg as part of its obligation to take in refugees. The city provides them with food and accommodation.
The Arrival center for Baden-Württemberg:
At the PHV Arrival Center for Baden-Württemberg, is where Baden-Württemberg houses refugees – generally for a short period of time. Up to 600 refugees can be registered and given a medical check here each day. They also submit their asylum application here with the help of a member of staff from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). The refugees are then distributed among the region’s urban and rural administrative districts. The number of refugees housed at PHV fluctuates dramatically. There are currently around 1,500 people living there.
Where are Heidelberg’s allocated refugees currently housed?
The majority of the refugees lives in city council accommodation on Henkel-Teroson-Strasse, on Hardtstrasse, in the Patton Barracks on Kirchheimer Weg, in the former Hotel Metropol on Alte Eppelheimer Strasse, on Kleingemünder Straße in Ziegelhausen, or from the end of August 2017 at the 'Im Weiher' accommodation in Handschuhsheim.
Will Heidelberg have to take in more refugees in the future?
Because the Arrival center center for Baden-Württemberg is located in Patrick Henry Village (PHV), Heidelberg is currently exempt from being allocated any more refugees to be housed by the city council. However, the city council anticipates that this exemption could be lifted in the future – either partially or entirely – in which case Heidelberg will need to accommodate more refugees. Accommodating refugees is not a voluntary service – it is a legal obligation that the city of Heidelberg has to comply with.
Which refugees will come to Heidelberg?
Baden-Württemberg allocates the refugees to the local authorities. The city of Heidelberg has no influence on which people are sent to Heidelberg. And it is not possible to say in advance who will come because refugees are generally allocated at very short notice.
Where will the refugees that Heidelberg has to accommodate be housed?
Since the city council is keen to avoid housing refugees in sports halls or camps, it is already preparing to build additional accommodation in all parts of the city. All the district advisory councils and associations were informed of the plans at a special meeting on December 7, 2015. The city council approved the plan on December 10, 2015. According to the plan, 14 locations are to be developed in stages if there is further demand. Two of the 14 locations have already been implemented in the district of Handschuhsheim and Ziegelhausen.
Why are the refugees not housed in the empty barracks?
That would result in ghettos with 1000 or more refugees and no established neighborhood community. The city council wants to avoid the development of ghettos at all costs. It would also put too much pressure on the infrastructure of one district. This is why the city of Heidelberg has opted for manageable accommodation units that usually house around 50 to 100 people. In addition, the former military land is needed for city development projects, and in particular to build housing for all population groups in Heidelberg.
Does the city’s real estate company, Gesellschaft für Grund- und Hausbesitz mbH Heidelberg (GGH) also provide accommodation for refugees?
GGH rents out the refugee accommodation on Henkel-Teroson-Strasse, which comprises 27 apartments, to the city of Heidelberg. GGH is extending this property by the end of 2016, so as to increase the space per person, while keeping the number of residents unchanged. In consultation with the city council, GGH is also constructing a new building in Rohrbach (Kolbenzeil). In addition, GGH makes available individual apartments from its housing stock, when it is in a position to do so, to help accommodate refugees in a decentralized manner in consultation with the city council.
Why does the city want to house refugees in the middle of local neighborhoods?
Because this is where integration is most likely to succeed. In addition, there is a high level of social control in the local neighbourhoods. There are connections to societies, church congregations, schools, kindergartens and shops. The alternative would be large camps on the edge of the city. The city council is keen to avoid the creation of ghettos at all costs.
Where precisely are the 14 locations, and how many people does the city plan to house at each one?
The city council has approved the following list:
- Altstadt: Friedrich-Ebert-Anlage (car park), approx. 80 spaces
- Bahnstadt: Langer Anger 2, 60–100 spaces
- Bergheim: RNV car parks (opposite the old fire station), 60–100 spaces
- Neuenheim: Rufinusplatz, 60–100 spaces
- Neuenheim: Part of the zoo, former horse riding ground
- Neuenheim: Land by the zoo, Tiergartenstrasse 5 & 6, total approx. 60 spaces
- Rohrbach: Kolbenzeil 7–9 (former speech therapy kindergarten), 100–140 spaces
- Rohrbach: Internationale Gesamtschule Heidelberg (IGH) trailers, 50–130 spaces
- Schlierbach: planned meeting place, plot No. 1218/33, approx. 50 spaces
- Weststadt: Wilhelmsplatz, 50–100 spaces
- Weststadt: Former NATO property, Rudolf-Diesel-Str. 22, approx. 150 spaces
- Wieblingen: Open space near Marie-Baum-Schule, plot No. 3937, approx. 45 spaces
- Ziegelhausen: Kleingemünder Strasse 19 and 19/2, 50–60 spaces
- Handschuhsheim: Im Weiher, plot No. 16196, 66 spaces
Even where locations could cope with more spaces, the city council would like to restrict units to a maximum of 150 people in order to enable good integration in the neighborhood.
Up-to-date information about the locations can be found here.
What criteria did the city use to select these locations?
Primarily, the city looked for unused plots of land, open spaces or car parks in city ownership that can be made available quickly. In addition, there needed to be a connection to life in the neighborhood to create good conditions for rapid integration.
What exactly is being built at the individual locations?
The locations are being developed in stages, so the final detailed plans are not yet available for all locations. Most locations are intended to be used only temporarily, i.e. for two to three years. That is why pavilions are being built that can be taken down again without encroaching on the surrounding area. Solid structures are being built only at locations that can be used as residential areas in the long term, once they are no longer required to house refugees.
Does the planned accommodation at the 14 locations comply with building regulations?
Yes. In 2014/2015 the Bundestag passed far-reaching revisions to the construction code (Baugesetzbuch). Exemptions, exceptions and new points of law make it much easier to obtain planning permission for refugee accommodation. Under the revised construction code, the construction or extension of refugee accommodation is assumed to be in the general public interest. This removes the need to comply with the stipulations of a land development plan. The special public interest in the creation of such facilities is emphasized. This means that projects to house refugees in industrial zones are also permitted in certain situations – they can be granted exceptional approval as facilities for social purposes. Erecting mobile accommodation for up to three years is also permissible under the revised code.
How can residents find out what is being built in their local area?
Before construction work starts on each accommodation site, the city council informs the district advisory council of the plans at a public meeting. Information is also available at www.heidelberg.de and in the Stadtblatt, the official city gazette.
What constraints should neighbours expect at the 14 locations?
The city will endeavor in each case to avoid or minimize pressure on the immediate surroundings. However, it is possible that some car parks may no longer be available, for instance, or that access to some open spaces may be partially restricted.
Why is the city council sticking to its plans for refugee accommodation even though the number of refugees has fallen dramatically?
Refugee numbers can change at a moment’s notice. There are currently more refugees in the world than ever before: over 60 million. The number of refugees coming to Germany may alter significantly within a short space of time. The city wants to be prepared for this situation so as to avoid having to provide emergency accommodation in sports halls.
In addition, local authorities are legally obliged to increase the living and sleeping area in refugee accommodation from 4.5 sqm to 7 sqm per person by January 1, 2018. This adjustment was enacted in the law covering the admission of refugees (Flüchtlingsaufnahmegesetz – FlüAG), but was deferred until December 31, 2017 because of the high numbers of refugees being allocated. From January 1, 2018, local authorities will therefore be able to accommodate around a third fewer refugees in the same accommodation, if the size remains unchanged. For this reason alone, there is an urgent need to build additional accommodation for refugees.
Who is in charge of security around the refugee accommodation?
Basically, the police. However, the city of Heidelberg has also set up a round-the-clock on-call system within its social service, in close collaboration with the police. The city has also contracted a security firm that will be used in and around the refugee accommodation. The planned expansion of the team of community support officers (kommunaler Ordnungsdienst – KOD) has already been implemented. In addition, each of the 14 locations is to have a permanent on-site social worker and caretaker. The city intends to create a tight support and security network. Our motto is: we take care of people. But we also make sure that everyone follows the basic rules of the community.
Who takes care of refugees in Heidelberg?
Heidelberg’s office for social affairs and senior citizens (Amt für Soziales und Senioren) together with the asylum working group (Asylarbeitskreis), Caritas, the churches’ social welfare organization (Diakonisches Werk) and the German Red Cross.
In addition, large numbers of neighborhood volunteers and organizations, societies, businesses and other local facilities are involved in helping refugees in Heidelberg.
What is the city’s integration concept?
The decentralized accommodation concept provides the best conditions for integration and therefore for people to live together harmoniously and with respect for one another. Three points are key to successful integration: learning the language, schooling and vocational training, and the possibility to take part in the community.
The implemented/planned projects include: a language learning center at the Volkshochschule, intensive language support in preparatory classes, purchasing new teaching materials for the city council’s refugee accommodation and the public library, courses to prepare for apprenticeships and mentoring programs, as well as joint projects with sports clubs, schools, kindergartens and church congregations.
Do the refugees stay for a long time in the council accommodation or are they continually coming and going?
Refugees in council accommodation usually stay in Heidelberg at least until their asylum case has been decided.
What do refugees in Heidelberg live on?
All refugees are entitled to receive benefits under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefit Act (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz).
How are children and young people housed who arrive in Heidelberg without their parents or other family members?
Unaccompanied minors from abroad need special protection. They are therefore entrusted to the care of youth welfare offices. The Heidelberg youth welfare office is currently taking care of around 120 unaccompanied refugee minors, most of them from Afghanistan and Syria. The majority are between 15 and 17 years old. The young people generally live in homes or supervised accommodation. There are also provisions to house some individuals with foster families.
I would like to do voluntary work with refugees. How can I support them?
Anyone who would like to help refugees can find the main projects at www.heidelberg-fluechtlinge.de.
Who is responsible for answering questions about refugees in Heidelberg?
The local public services (Bürgerservice) of the city of Heidelberg will be happy to help, telephone +49 (0)6221 58-10580 or email email@example.com. If you have any questions regarding volunteering, pelase contact the refugee representative of the city of Heidelberg, Thomas Wellenreuther, telephone +49 (0)6221 58-37610, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.