Berlin sets up refugee shel­ter at for­mer Stasi HQ

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BERLIN: Berlin has opened a shel­ter at the for­mer head­quar­ters of com­mu­nist East Ger­many’s feared Stasi se­cret po­lice to help house a record in­flux of asy­lum seek­ers, week­end me­dia re­ports said. Nearly 500 peo­ple, most of them from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, have been stay­ing in the for­eign in­tel­li­gence wing of the im­pos­ing for­mer Min­istry of State Se­cu­rity since late Fri­day, the daily Ber­liner Zeitung said. Up to 900 peo­ple will even­tu­ally be housed there tem­po­rar­ily.

“The rooms will fi­nally be used for some­thing mean­ing­ful,” it quoted a spokesman for the Ger­man Red Cross (DRK), Ruedi­ger Kunz, as say­ing. The Berlin so­cial ser­vices agency could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment yes­ter­day.

The of­fice block was once the fief­dom of leg­endary spy­mas­ter Markus Wolf. Dubbed “The Man With­out a Face” be­cause Western in­tel­li­gence ser­vices long lacked even a pho­to­graph of him, Wolf di­rected one of the world’s most for­mi­da­ble es­pi­onage net­works for nearly three decades.

A leg­end in his own life­time, Wolf suc­cess­fully ran more than 4,000 spies across the Iron Cur­tain dur­ing his ten­ure from 1958 to 1987, in­fil­trat­ing count­less “moles” deep into the West Ger­man gov­ern­ment ad­min­is­tra­tion. Wolf’s wing was used by the na­tional rail­way com­pany Deutsche Bahn in the 1990s but had been va­cant for a few years, the Tagesspiegel news­pa­per re­ported.

Up to six peo­ple per of­fice will sleep in bunk beds at the site, where asy­lum seek­ers can spend three months un­til they are placed in more per­ma­nent hous­ing.

The main Stasi head­quar­ters, where the enor­mous agency kept vast records on East Ger­man cit­i­zens, would re­main a mu­seum, the Ber­liner Zeitung said.

Around 7,000 Stasi employees worked in the sprawl­ing com­plex in the city’s Licht­en­berg dis­trict, which was stormed by pro­test­ers in the weeks af­ter the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 to stop staff from de­stroy­ing files. Ger­man au­thor­i­ties are scram­bling to find beds for up to one mil­lion asy­lum seek­ers ex­pected in the coun­try this year alone.

In Oc­to­ber, the iconic air­port Tem­pel­hof, built by the Nazis and later the stag­ing ground for the Berlin Air­lift, was also con­verted into a tem­po­rary shel­ter. — AFP

Mi­grants queue dur­ing a snow shower to board a bus af­ter cross­ing the border be­tween Aus­tria and Ger­many in Wegscheid near Pas­sau, Ger­many, yes­ter­day. — AP

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