German Inefficiency: Berlin’s refugee services are becoming a bureaucratic nightmare

Lageso Berlin
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Lining up in front of Lageso, Berlin

  While Germans are generally well-known for their efficiency, the situation at the asylum registration center LaGeSo (Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales) in Berlin is anything but.

As German office workers break for lunch in Moabit, a bustling neighborhood in Berlin, many anxious asylum seekers are just wrapping up a long, taxing morning at the city’s nearby registration center. They’ve been lined up in the cold as early as four o’clock in the morning, hoping to advance their cases, if only a little—but odds are low and conditions tough.

This registration center, Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales (known by its German acronym LaGeSo), is the main choke point of Berlin’s asylum system. This is where asylum seekers must come, day after day, before they’ve finished registering, for any number of reasons: to file their applications for protection, to obtain housing vouchers, to apply for health-care coverage, residency extensions, and other permissions. The process once took just hours, but with at least 62,000 arrivals to Berlin this year, it has been lagging on for weeks, sometimes months. The wait can seem interminable, even nonsensical.

Amar, a Syrian asylum seeker, tells Quartz he had slept on the street for two days to get an appointment, only not to have his number called the day of. “There is something not logical about this,” he says. “And where are we? In Germany, the most organized, democratic country. I don’t know. It’s strange.”

To read the rest of this article in Quartz click here. Research was supported by the Transatlantic Media Fellowship Program.

Some of the interviews and background reporting for this article were also featured on a segment in the Takeaway radio show