German City’s Answer to Europe’s Border Crisis? A Four-Star Hotel

Carlo Angerer, NBC News, November 4, 2014

With its wood-paneled piano bar and luxurious spa, the four-star Bonotel assures visitors paying up to $300 per night that it meets the “international standard of a first-class hotel.”

But starting next year, the hotel’s marble-and-mirrored lobby and “quiet, peaceful ambience” will play host not to indulgent travelers but desperate asylum seekers.

Germany’s fourth-largest city spent almost $7 million to buy the Bonotel this summer. Its doors will soon be shut and its 93 opulent rooms filled with asylum seekers, a move underscoring how Europe’s economic powerhouse has been overwhelmed by an influx of people seeking a better life amid a continent-wide border crisis.

According to U.N. figures, Germany received 109,600 applications for asylum last year–the most of any country in the world. The U.S. was second, with 84,400.

In the first half of this year alone, more than 77,000 others sought asylum in Germany–a 60 percent rise compared to the same period in 2013. {snip}


A spokesperson for the city of Cologne told NBC News that the hotel’s nearly $7 million price tag was cheaper than renting space. Authorities have previously resorted to booking rooms for asylum seekers in other hotels.

Meanwhile, living conditions for many asylum seekers are bleak.

A 45-minute bus ride across Cologne, hundreds of refugees are crammed into former city administration buildings along a busy highway. {snip}

Mubarak, a Somali refugee who like others at the center declined to give his last name citing fears of retribution from German authorities for criticizing them publicly, told NBC News that conditions are so poor he has become disillusioned with his new home.

“I wanted to get to a place where I could start a different life,” he said, recounting his 18-month journey through African deserts and a treacherous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea–a route which has claimed the lives of more than 3,200 people this year. “But I don’t believe in Germany any more. The people in Germany are good to us, but we need more help.”


“We live like animals, not like people,” said Maruf, a Somali roommate.

It’s a similar–or worse–situation in many other parts of Germany where officials have been caught unprepared for the influx of new arrivals.


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