The complex will house up to 120 of the estimated 3,500 LGBT refugees in Berlin.
Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
In response to mounting concerns over the safety of LGBT refugees in shelters, Berlin will open its first center for queer and trans refugees who are seeking asylum in the German capital.
Slate reports that Schwulenberatung Berlin, an LGBT center in the Charlottenburg borough, will open a shelter in March that can house up to 120 individuals. There are an estimated 3,500 LGBT refugees in Berlin, a number that reflects the massive influx of 1 million asylum seekers who entered Germany in 2015, overwhelming the country’s resettlement institutions. There are 150 refugee centers in Berlin, but that hasn’t been enough—refugee camps have been popping up in undesignated areas throughout the city, such as the Tempelhof Airport.
The overflowing of shelters has left LGBT refugees without adequate resources or protection. According to Stephen Jäkel, who works at Schwulenberatung, the refugee communities are “small worlds” and insular, with people not having much to do other than gossip. “There is violence if people come out or are recognized as LGBT. We have reports of people being spat on, called ugly words, or beaten,” he said.
Between August and December 2015 alone, the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany reported 95 cases of violence against LGBT refugees, many of which occurred in asylum centers. In September, Berlin designated LGBT refugees as a special social group that needs extra attention and protection, like pregnant women and disabled people.
For queer and trans refugees, turning to the authorities for safety is not always an option. There have been incidents of staff members and interpreters expressing apathy or turning their backs on LGBT refugees’ concerns and needs. “We had reports of interpreters quitting their jobs the moment they found out the person they’re translating for is gay,” Jäkel said.
The new complex, which includes 29 apartments ranging from one to four bedrooms, provides a safe home for LGBT refugees while also offering a sense of community and resources to find private housing. The center will provide meals for those who have not yet received welfare payments and will be protected by LGBT-friendly security at all times.