Anything but complicated

The coronavirus pandemic brought restrictions and challenges of a different kind in 2020. Martin Liechti (Deputy Head Region Eastern Switzerland) and Till Zeretzke (Head Supervision Federal Asylum Centre Kreuzlingen) overcame the difficulties through a combination of composure, improvisation and dedication.

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Spring 2020: Like other facilities, the Federal Asylum Centre (FAC) in Kreuzlingen was also required to set up a COVID-19 quarantine unit. “We started thinking early on which rooms we could use. As we particularly needed small rooms that could be made secure and few staff were on site, it became clear quite quickly that we would use our offices,” Martin Liechti remembers. “We also knew that we would need more staff, more protective equipment and more beds. With the support of other federal services, supplies began arriving quickly and the equipment was installed within a few days. It was remarkable that everything went so smoothly and fast,” Till Zeretzke adds.

Good communication

One of the greatest challenges was communication. “From one day to the next we had to explain to the residents, in a multitude of languages, how many people were allowed to sit at a table, what hygiene rules applied, how to maintain social distancing in the dormitories, etc.” Till Zeretzke and his team were confronted with new challenges on a daily basis. The FAC in Kreuzlingen is located within walking distance of the railway station: “For the most part, everyone was cooperative and complied with the new rules. I think everyone had – and still has – a huge respect for the virus,” Zeretzke says, giving credit to the asylum seekers.

Arrival of the resettlement groups

A further task was to resettle two groups of particularly vulnerable refugees – Syrians from Jordan and Sudanese from Egypt. Till Zeretzke describes the situation at the time: “In particular the arrival of the first group in spring 2020 was a challenge. We had to put 30 people into quarantine for ten days because they had arrived from a country with a high number of coronavirus infections, and ensure they were kept separate from the other residents. This caused a feeling of uncertainty at the centre for a while. Fortunately, no one came down with COVID.

The situation eases

Despite the challenges, Martin Liechti can see the last twelve months in a positive light: “We all worked together with the same objective in mind – this attitude more than paid off,” he says.

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Central location: The FAC in Kreuzlingen is within walking distance of the railway station.
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Just a few steps to the border: The FAC in Kreuzlingen is a stone’s throw from Germany.
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Enough space: Maintaining social distancing in the large recreation room and dining area.
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Basic necessities are available at the kiosk – and the latest information is available at the information desk.
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Asylum seekers can try their hand at being a barista at the Habibi Cafe; their coffee creations go down well with everyone – including the supervisors.
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The ‘boutiqueʼ provides asylum seekers with clothing. Clothing requirements are largely met by donations.
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In the centre’s workshop items are repaired and new ones are made – like this homemade charging station for mobile phones.
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The Medic Helpcontact point also stocks first-aid supplies and corona testing kits.
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The quiet room is an interdenominational space where residents can go to be quiet, contemplate or pray in silence.