Wiesbaden garrison holds community meeting on refugees
February 23, 2016
WIESBADEN, Germany — U.S. Army and German government leaders held a community meeting Monday night to deal with concerns military community members might have about the refugees coming into Germany, particularly to Wiesbaden.
“The primary purpose is putting out some good, solid information to the community so they can know more about the refugee situation in the area so they’re informed as opposed to misinformed, and to dispel a lot of the rumors that are going around and to make sure our folks are fully aware instead of partially aware,” said Col. Mary Martin, the garrison commander.
In recent weeks and months, rumors have been circulating on social media that refugee children would be attending Department of Defense Education Activity Schools and that the city government was turning over buildings near current military housing areas to house migrants. These rumors aren’t true, Martin said.
Community interest in the two-hour meeting was high, with nearly all seats at the Wiesbaden Middle School gym filled and many people standing in the rear of the gym.
Roughly 1 million refugees from the Middle East and Africa are estimated to have come to Germany over the last year to escape terrorism and war in their native countries.
Recent attacks on women in some German cities by those believed to be refugees have caused a backlash by groups opposed to their settlement in the country. Earlier this week, onlookers cheered a fire that destroyed a hotel being converted into a shelter for refugees in Saxony, German police said.
Wiesbaden Mayor Arno Gossman and Deputy Police Chief Thomas Fink told Monday’s audience that the refugees haven’t been causing problems here. In fact, Wiesbaden is among the safest cities in Germany, and since it began accepting refugees, crime has gone down, they said.
Fink and Gossman, along with Martin and garrison emergency services director Lt. Col. Michael Zink, gave presentations on the current situation and future plans to house and integrate migrants. They also talked about what the garrison is doing to protect its residents.
The Wiesbaden military community has four main housing areas, two of which are protected by an access-control point and two that are largely open but have fences and gates that can be locked down in case of emergency.
The garrison is conducting the usual military police patrols in all housing areas, and the local police patrol the open housing area, Martin and Zink said. Additional lighting is to be installed by the end of September.
Military spouse Kristie Ambrose, who attended the meeting, said she feels especially vulnerable as an American.
“Whenever we go out and speak English, people stare at us. There are times when I would stay quiet. With the refugees coming I feel even more on edge,” she said.
Cara Maxey said after the town hall that she was glad leaders were willing to deal with community concerns.
“I thought that the community was spreading rumors that didn’t need to be spread, I think they were scaring themselves more than (looking at) the facts,” she said. “I think it was the information that we needed to hear; I think that it was the information that this forum was about.”