Dispute over refugee accommodation: school or muf?

Despite opposition from the district and a citizens’ initiative, the Finance Administration wants to build a modular refugee shelter in Zehlendorf.

Construction of a MUF in Marzahn, 2016 Photo: dpa

The Senate is sticking to plans for a refugee shelter on Osteweg in Steglitz-Zehlendorf. Construction will begin this year, and the facility is scheduled to open in 2020, Eva Henkel, spokeswoman for Finance Senator Matthias Kollatz (SPD), explained in response to a taz query. Henkel contradicted the assertion in an open letter from the citizens’ initiative (BI) Sport- und Schulstadtort Osteweg that there is a substitute site that could be taken "if it is politically desired": the ownership situation could not be clarified for one of the proposed alternatives, another is a plot of land in federal hands for which the federal government has registered a demand, and a third is occupied until further notice.

The Senate wants to build modular accommodation for refugees (MUF) with space for 200 people on a brownfield site at Osteweg 63. The site is one of 25 that were decided in March 2018 after negotiations with the districts. The Senate had stipulated that at least two MUFs with a total of 1,000 places had to be built in each district. Two years earlier, the Senate had decided on 43 MUF sites in a first round, of which 16 have been completed so far. The prefabricated houses are to be built quickly and, after a transition period of three years, will also be available to other economically weak segments of the population.

"Without school, no school places for refugee children".

On Osteweg, however, the district and the citizens’ initiative are opposing the project. In their eyes, the district’s plans for the area are more urgent: According to them, the gymnasium for a school is to be built on the empty lot, which is to be built on the neighboring lot. The school is absolutely necessary, according to the BI, because housing for around 12,000 people has already been built in the surrounding area and more is being created.

It is true that housing refugees is also important – but integration only succeeds "if the associated infrastructure, including school accommodation, has been taken into account". Without a new school, however, there would be no school places for the refugee children who are to come. At the same time, he said, the district is called upon to provide school and sports infrastructure after the MUF is built.

The Finance Senator’s spokeswoman rejects this as well. "The district has not presented any concrete plans for use and requirements to the Senate Department for Education. In addition, the specialist administration does not see the need as given," she explained. An inquiry about this was not answered by the education administration by the editorial deadline.

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