Prosecutors in Thuringia, Germany are investigating a refugee camp in Germany operated by the state government, aid workers that also run the facility told BuzzFeed News.
The German Red Cross (DRK), which helps the German government operate the Erstaufnahmestelle (EAE) refugee camp in Suhl, confirmed the investigation was underway.
The investigation comes after BuzzFeed News first published complaints from residents and workers at the camp in October. They accused camp administrators and security workers of accepting bribes from residents in exchange for expedited paperwork processing and transfers out of the camp; unsanitary residences that led to the spread of disease; and workers making discriminatory remarks to refugees.
“The investigation is led by the Public Prosecution Department,” J.Arfmann Vorstandsvorsitzender, DRK Suhl chief executive director, told BuzzFeed News in an email. "We don’t have any information either about the investigation procedure or about the investigation results."
Hannes Grünseisen, spokesman for the public prosecution department of Erfurt, Thuringia's capital, told BuzzFeed News he was unable to comment on ongoing investigations. Grünseisen said he could not answer when the investigation began, the nature of the investigation, and which organizations, if any, were being investigated.
"The accusations made against the personnel of the EAE Suhl in the BuzzFeed article ... also affects" the DRK, Vorstandsvorsitzender said in an email, adding that if the prosecutors hadn't begun an investigation on their own, the DRK would have "requested the state take action."
Hundreds of residents at the camp signed a petition, published by BuzzFeed News, accusing two administrative social workers of "evad[ing] their duties," "neglecting the affairs" of the residential buildings dedicated only to families, and discriminating against and insulting the refugees — namely telling some to "go back to Syria" if they don't like their living conditions.
A DRK medical worker at the camp, who asked not to be identified out of fear of losing his job, told BuzzFeed News in October that the conditions at the camp were "unhealthy" and "bad." He said it was difficult to treat diseases because the conditions often causes them to worsen or spread. “So many people have scabies, one child has hepatitis A," he said. "We all think [they] got it from here.”
The DRK released an official statement in November responding to the allegations:
The allegations against the staff of the EAE raised in BuzzFeed's article ... makes us concerned. The Regional DRK Suhl and the DRK-Thüringen call for a complete clarification by the competent authorities. Should the allegations be confirmed, there will be immediate consequences for the staff responsible.
DRK is not responsible for the actions of the security guards, for the refugee's provisions, or for the [residential buildings] or their cleaning. These aspects are under the responsibility of the Thuringia state property management office.
The statement also contested the claims of the DRK medical worker. "Many refugees come to Germany already with diseases. Those who need medical treatment are taken care of," it said.
The state office of Thuringia did not immediately return BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
Additional reporting by Natalia Inozemtseva in Germany.
Ema O'Connor is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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