Dilapidated houses and broken windows covered in cardboard: this isn't uncommon in the Landesaufnahmestelle (LASt. English: state reception centre) in the Saarlandic town of Lebach.
Accommodation for refugees has existed in these old barracks since 1958. After World War II, the building stood empty and was turned into a shelter for exiles and refugees. Since the mid ‘80s, the demand of housing refugees in Lebach grew significantly, after refugees from Algeria and Vietnam had fled their countries following the wars of 1978/79. In 1993, the building complex in Lebach was made the official reception centre of the state of Saarland.
Today, asylum seekers, along with people who have been denied asylum and people who have travelled here illegally, live in Lebach. The latter are living here until they get deported back to their homelands. 1,800 people lived in LASt in January 2016. In the fall of 2015, 3,500 refugees came here to discover only 1,200 available beds; makeshift quarters were set up through marquee tents.
According to Lebach town website, much is being done to integrate and support the people at the reception centre: German courses and educational programs are being offered to help children of refugees integrate. Other important sources of support are the Diakonisches Werk (a Protestant charitable organisation in Germany), the Caritas organisation, and the German Red Cross. They are always present on site. The shelter itself is organised by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
Watch the video “Next Stop Lebach” to learn how Tumaj Talimy, who was born in LASt Lebach during the ‘80s, sees the area today.