Berlin and German Politics

Berlin’s Appalling Conditions at Refugee Registration Center LaGeSo

Institutional Chaos in Berlin: Registering Refugees at LaGeSo  (29 September 2015)
Institutional Chaos in Berlin: Registering Refugees at LaGeSo (29 September 2015)

29 SEPT 2015, BERLIN—I spent all day today at the refugee registration centre, LaGeSo, on Turmstraße. Refugees tell me getting registered in Berlin is more difficult than travelling across the continent to get to Germany.


You must push and shove for days just to get a number in the queue. Then you must be present, day in, day out, from 830am to 7pm, until they call your number. There are about 1000 people waiting, and the average wait is 2 weeks. But some wait longer. I met an old man from the north of Syria with one leg in a wheelchair who has been waiting for 40 days outside for his number to be called. Refugees are now protesting there, and there is an edge of desperation. Many are simply giving up, packing up, and trying to head to Scandinavia. Others asked me whether it is possible to live as an illegal here (I said, don’t try it!). When someone’s number is finally called, everyone cheers for the person. The agency I heard gets through about 40 people a day, which is nothing. Poor poor folks. 

Refugees Sleeping on the Street Waiting to Be Registered in Berlin
Refugees Sleeping on the Street Waiting to Be Registered in Berlin

LaGeSo is in the news, which is good. But the news should point out more the institutional problems at LaGeSo and not focus so much on the ‘unruly refugees’. There are lots of volunteers on-site, which is good, distributing water and food. There is a medical team too. But what would help most right now is pressure on the institutions to embrace emergency procedures for processing refugees: as you might know, things in Germany can be ossified and lacking in improvisation. This is affecting people’s lives horribly at LaGeSo. They have opened an additional office around the corner, which I just heard about. But there really needs to be a much bigger shake-up in procedures/ expediting of procedures to help these people. I can’t imagine what they will do if the weather turns on them.

Meanwhile, take a look at this video I took today (above) in which a security guard at LaGeSo cusses out the refugees protesting the eternal wait. ‘Why did you ever come to Germany?’ he asked them earlier. A number might be asking that themselves.

Next post, I’ll try to post some stories from people I talked to who are forced to be present, staring at the screen for their number to be called, waiting day after day after day, after week, after month… this has got to stop.


by Joseph Pearson

*This is the fourth in a series of articles on The Needle about the refugee arrivals in Berlin. Read the others:

1. Why Germany Welcomes Refugees?

2. Razor Wire and Refugees: What’s Happening Now in Berlin.

3. How Long Will Germany Welcome Refugees?



Joseph Pearson

Joseph Pearson (1975) is writer and historian based in Berlin. Born in Canada, he was educated at Cambridge University, UK, where he received his doctorate in history in 2001. Since 2008, he has written The Needle, which has become one of Berlin's most popular blogs. His portrait of the German capital, Berlin, for Reaktion Press was published in 2017. His second book, My Grandfather's Knife, was published by HarperCollins and the History Press in 2022. He is also the essayist and blogger of the Schaubühne Theatre, one of Berlin's best known state-funded institutions. His writing has appeared widely in the press, literary and academic journals, and has been translated into Italian, German, French, and Arabic. Having taught at Columbia University in New York City, he lectures in Berlin at New York University Berlin (since 2012) and the Barenboim-Said Academy.