Germany: Essen’s food bank reverses decision to bar migrants

A food bank in the city of Essen will once again serve non-Germans after it stopped offering membership to foreigners in January. The chairman had defended the decision, saying 75 percent of those served were foreigners.

The Tafel food bank in Essen will once again offer membership to foreigners after its decision to provide that service only to Germans stirred public debate across the country, the city of Essen announced on Sunday.

Essen officials said a decision was taken on Friday to remove the “temporary measure as soon as possible.” Jörg Sartor, who serves as chairman of the food bank’s board of trustees, confirmed to DPA news agency that it will offer its membership program to foreigners by the end of March.

The Essen Tafel decided in December to bar foreigners from participating in the food bank’s programs as of January.

Last month, Sartor defended the decision saying roughly 75 percent of the people who went to Tafel locations in the city were foreigners. He said the board believed the figure was too high.

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The Essen Tafel, like others across the country, operates by providing membership cards to those in need. One card is allotted per family. In order to qualify, a potential member must be a beneficiary of social assistance.

Widespread criticism

At the time, board member Rita Nebel said despite roughly 6,000 people covered by Tafel Essen membership, “you could sometimes pick the few German people out of the crowd at the food handovers.”

Following the decision, six of the food bank’s delivery vans and the entrance of one of its locations were vandalized with phrases like “F*** Nazis.”

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Similar organizations around the country also criticized Essen Tafel for its decision, arguing that people in need should not be blocked from assistance because of their nationality.

On Sunday, Sartor said the decision still came down to numbers: “The numbers have moved back towards balance. By the end of the month, we assume that they’ll be back to a ratio that’s acceptable to us.”

ls/sms (KNA, dpa) /DW

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