The soon-to-be former anchor center of Schweinfurt housed in the Ledward Barracks | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/K.Hildebrand
The soon-to-be former anchor center of Schweinfurt housed in the Ledward Barracks | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/K.Hildebrand

Over the next few weeks, around 800 asylum seekers living in the Schweinfurt anchor center in northern Bavaria will move to another former US barracks nearby. Another 300 asylum seekers near Munich will move into a new outpost of the anchor center Manching over the next few days.

The local government of Lower Franconia in northern Bavaria on Thursday presented the new anchor center in the city of Geldersheim/Niederwerrn to the public. Starting on May 15, around 800 asylum seekers currently staying in the former Ledward Barracks in Schweinfurt will gradually move to the Conn Barracks, another former US barracks in the neighboring communities of Geldersheim and Niederwerrn.

Last year, three German states including Bavaria turned nine reception facilities into so-called anchor centers, a concept put forth by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. Asylum seekers are supposed to stay at these centers for up to 24 months while their applications are being processed — and they either receive asylum or get deported. 

The current anchor center sits on the outskirts of Schweinfurt, a city of 53,000 in northern Bavaria on the banks of the Main River. Originally built as barracks for the Wehrmacht under Nazi Germany, the Ledward Barracks housed American GIs from 1945 until 2014. From July 2015 on it was used as a reception facility for refugees.

Starting this summer, the Ledward Barracks will be gradually turned into a university campus, among other things.

Entry area of the Conn Barracks home of the new anchor center in GeldersheimNiederwerrn northern Bavaria  Photo Johannes Hardenacke government of Lower Franconia

More green space

A spokesperson for the local government told InfoMigrants the new anchor center in the former Conn Barracks, which is about four kilometers away from the Ledward Barracks, has been extensively renovated and will “in essence” be the same in regards to accommodation. The compound is a bit ampler and has more green space, though.

Aside from Schweinfurt’s police force, the private security service responsible for the anchor center will also have its own office in the new facility. Currently, at least 50 guards work at the facility during the day, up from 33 last November.

While the asylum seekers, the administration and most connected bureaus and services will move to Geldersheim/Niederwerrn over the coming weeks, the local foreigners' office and the local branch of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) will remain in Schweinfurt until mid-2020. Child care and schooling for asylum seekers' children will also stay at the old location for now. That's why the local government has set up a shuttle service for the transition period.

Criticism from social organizations

Social organizations like the Catholic Church’s Caritas and the Protestant Church’s Diakonie fundamentally criticize the concept of the anchor centers. They argue that people are cut off from society and that people should not have to live in shared accommodation for a long period of time. 

“So many people with existential fears living together in close quarters remains a problem,” local Diakonie chairman Jochen Kessler-Rosa said. Echoing his statement, Caritas Schweinfurt’s Leonie Sengenberger said “contact with the local population is easier in decentralized, smaller accommodation.”

In the new facility, Sengenberger added, “residents are also more dependent on public transportation than hitherto.”

The kindergarten at Donauwörth anchor center | Credit: Hossein Kermani

The new facility is a 50-minute walk away from the soon-to-be old one, and a little over one hour from downtown Schweinfurt. The government spokesperson told InfoMigrants a public bus stop was ten minutes away from the new location and “runs regularly.”

Similar to the Schweinfurt anchor center, two to three people will stay in one room in Geldersheim/Niederwerrn. Rooms can be combined for families, and two rooms share a sanitary unit.

New outpost in Munich

In another area in Bavaria, around 300 asylum seekers will move into a new anchor center outpost in the Munich quarter of Trudering. The new facility for up to 350 residents is an outpost of the Manching anchor center, which is located near Ingolstadt in the center of Bavaria.

Residents will primarily be Pakistani, Afghan and Nigerian asylum seekers, district president Maria Els said. Many inhabitants of Trudering voiced concerns about the new outpost, including the number of asylum seekers living in close quarters without employment. Trudering is home to 67,000 of Munich’s some 1.45 million inhabitants.

Another point of criticism was the lack of opportunities to stay outside. Admitting this was a flaw, district president Els announced this would change. The new outpost replaces the now closed outpost in the former McGraw barracks.

Also read: 

Living in limbo: Asylum seekers at a German anchor center (Schweinfurt)

On the outside: Living in uncertainty at a German anchor center (Donauwörth)


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