Iconic airport takes in refugees

Berlin’s disused Tempelhof airport is to temporarily house more than 1000 refugees, the city’s senate has confirmed, as the search for large-scale emergency accommodation in the German capital grows more frantic.

Two hangars at the abandoned airport, famous for its use by the Western Allies during the Berlin airlift in 1948, have been earmarked to house up to 1 200 refugees, said Regina Kneiding, a spokesperson for the Berlin senate’s department of health and social affairs.

On Sunday, Berlin mayor Michael Müller told broadcaster RBB that refugees would be housed in the Nazi-era terminal “in the next few days”.

The colossal empty building is now largely used for cultural events and concerts. Last weekend, it became the first venue in Europe to host the United States’s touring Lollapalooza music festival.

The prospect of putting up refugees in the airport has proved controversial. Last week, the city senate said it had ruled out the site on the grounds that it lacked necessary bathroom and toilet facilities.

But concerns have been laid aside, Kneiding said, in light of the city’s scramble for large-scale refugee accommodation.

Germany’s recent influx has seen more than 1000 refugees arriving in Berlin every day, many on trains from Munich. On arrival, newcomers face long waits at the main registration centre before being assigned to one of the city’s shelters. The backlog has meant that many have had to sleep rough while they wait, a situation authorities are keen to address before Berlin’s harsh winter closes in. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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