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Berlin police probe fire at Ukrainian refugee center

March 13, 2024

German police are investigating possible arson after a blaze broke out at a center housing refugees near Berlin. The cause of the fire was at first unclear.

The fire department extinguishes the fire at the refugee accommodation at the former Tegel Airport
Firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to other tentsImage: Carsten Koall/dpa/picture alliance

Police in the German capital on Wednesday said they were seeking clues after a fire swept through part of a refugee accommodation center set up for Ukrainian refugees.

The cause of the blaze a day earlier, which destroyed a large tent hall but did not cause any injuries, was initially unclear.

What we know about the fire?

"We are investigating in all directions, everything is still open," a police spokeswoman told the German news agency EPD.

Some 300 people were living in the approximately 1,000-square-meter tent, including children and pets. The fire brigade and operator of the center said all of them had been taken to safety.

Firefighters were able to stop the fire from spreading to other tents at the facility, which is on the site of Berlin's former Tegel airport.

The Berlin State Office for Refugee Affairs said alternative accommodation had been arranged for those who were living at the arrival center, which is among the largest such facilities in Germany.

The coordinator for refugees from Ukraine in Berlin, Albrecht Broemme, told broadcaster Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg that police investigations were ongoing on site.

Berlin Tegel Airport: Help for Ukrainians

It is expected that a new tent hall will be in place on the same plot in about two months. 

A total of 4,500 people live at the facility, although it was built to house up to 7,000. The center was opened exclusively to welcome people fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but it has since been used to house other refugees and asylum seekers.

While the accommodation was supposed to temporarily house people who have newly arrived in Germany, some have been living there for months.

rc/sms (dpa, AFP)

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