Berlin is expecting up to 13,000 refugees this year, and it does not have the space to house them by a long shot.
Even with the 2,200 rooms being created in containers in six different locations across the city, there will still be a serious shortfall.
Now, the Berlin state government, known as the senate, and the regional office for health and social affairs, which is responsible for refugee accommodation, are looking around for real estate that could offer a more permanent solution.
As part of their research, the government has asked if the Berlin trade fair area in the west of the city, known as Messe Berlin, would be an option for housing asylum seekers. Messe Berlin chairman Christian Göke, said that the space surrounding the still unopened international airport on the edge of Berlin is also being discussed.
Since 2010, Messe Berlin has erected three large hangars adjacent to Schönefeld airport, just next to where the new airport is being built, for its “Berlin expocenter airport.” The grounds were first used for the ILA air show in summer 2012. The next ILA is planned for 2016. However, they are keen to rent out the grounds to other organizations as well.
“We don’t see how it makes sense to use the trade fair halls as accommodation.”
The senate is currently just sounding out the idea, and not making any commitments. It will continue its talks with different accommodation and real estate companies, according to Constance Frey, the spokeswoman for the senate’s social administration office.
Ms. Frey added that within the framework of asylum rights, it would not be at all possible to accommodate asylum seekers with pending proceedings in Berlin outside of the city. The new airport is just beyond the border of Berlin in the surrounding state of Brandenburg.
Brandenburg’s ministry of social affairs said it did not know about Berlin’s plans to possibly accommodate refugees in their state, where there are currently 4,500 asylum seekers in homes and 2,200 housed in apartments.
Meanwhile there are also doubts about the idea of using the Messe Berlin grounds.
“We don’t see how it makes sense to use the trade fair halls under the radio tower or in Selchow as accommodation,”said Mr. Göke of Messe Berlin. “That would impair our normal business operations.”
However, the state owns Messe Berlin and co-owns the grounds, so it could, theoretically, push through its use as asylum accommodation.
“In principle, we could offer the halls if we cancel the Green Weeks,” said Mr. Göke, referring to the huge food and farming trade fair that will take place again in January 2015. No one in Berlin would seriously want that to happen, he argued.
This article first appeared in Der Tagespiegel. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org