This isn’t a story about organized crime or small-time hustlers. It’s about what happens when a rich nation has to absorb more than 1 million people virtually overnight. Huge government contracts, guys who can build a shelter in 24 hours: Germany is showing the rest of the world how to monetize refugees on an industrial scale. (…)
If I got a call and the first sentence was ‘I would really like to help these refugees,’ or ‘I’m so depressed to see all the photos,’ blah blah blah, I knew they wanted the 50 euros,” recalls Stephan von Dassel, the mayor of the Mitte district. “And the more they talked about their personal attachment to helping, the more they wanted the money.”
Overnight, hostels that cost 30 euros per night had hiked rates to 50 euros. Handwritten signs reading “Refugees welcome to rent here” were taped inside windows and on banners draped from apartment balconies. One lawyer packed his tiny studio loft with six bunk beds, making 2,100 euros per week off an apartment that cost him less than 1,800 euros per month. Then there were the entrepreneurs who offered accommodations in garages and toolsheds. Von Dassel estimated that in the early days, the government overspent on housing by more than 100 million euros.
“Every rat came out of the corner and started to have an accommodation business,” he says. “It was like where you find those gold nuggets in the U.S.—like the gold rush.” (…)
In 1923, Germans built an airport not far from central Berlin called Tempelhof. Hitler would later give speeches from a podium near the hangars, framed by swastika banners.
For a time, one of the Nazi regime’s first-ever concentration camps operated on the edge of the airfield. In the late 1940s, the United States and its allies used the facility for the airlifts that dropped supplies to starving West Berliners during the Cold War.
Last September, Berlin opened Tempelhof to refugees. (…)
“No one has ever run a camp this big, so there was no blueprint for how to do it correctly,” said Maria Kipp, a Tamaja spokeswoman. (…)
One of the largest corporate beneficiaries of the crisis is European Homecare, formerly a niche company that has offered services for asylum seekers since the early 1990s. Now, it is Germany’s largest refugee housing provider, operating 100 facilities capable of hosting 20,000 people. Its revenues spiked from 17 million euros in 2013 to more than 100 million euros in 2015, the year the crisis hit Germany, according to the Financial Times. Handelsblatt a German business journal, found that the company’s return on equity is an astonishing 66 percent, which it has achieved by keeping costs as low as possible. (…)
According to Handelsblatt, an internal memo at one European Homecare facility noted, “We cannot pay the security personnel too much, or else we will no longer qualify for government housing benefits.” In 2014, prosecutors released pictures of a grinning guard at a European Homecare facility in North Rhine-Westphalia, posing with his boot on the head of a refugee. In a video filmed at the same camp, another guard forced a man to lie on a mattress covered in vomit. Security at the camp had been contracted out to a firm called SKI, which had in turn reportedly subcontracted with another company. A police investigation later revealed that at least two of the guards involved had a criminal record. European Homecare lost the contract for the shelter—but was awarded one for another large facility soon afterwards.
Outside the LaGeSo facility in Berlin, guards were filmed calling for migrants to be sent to concentration camps and promising them that “work will make you free,” the words infamously posted above the gates of Auschwitz.
Never gets old: