Hamburg to seize vacant commercial properties to house refugees

The massive influx of refugees has put pressure on city authorities to find accommodation

Some refugees are resorting to sleeping rough as German struggles to find them accommodation
Some refugees are resorting to sleeping rough as German struggles to find them accommodation

Hamburg has become the first German city to pass a law, which takes effect next week, allowing the seizure of empty commercial properties in order to house refugees.

The authorities in Bremen, a city just west of Hamburg, are considering passing a similar law.

The massive influx of migrants has put pressure on city authorities to find accommodation, with some refugees resorting to sleeping rough outdoors.

In a new survey, by broadcaster ARD, 51% of people said the influx scared them. It suggests a four-year low in Chancellor Angela Merkel's popularity.

She has said Germany can accommodate refugees who have genuinely fled war or persecution - a humanitarian gesture towards the many thousands risking their lives to reach Europe this year.

But many politicians - including her conservative Bavarian CSU allies and various EU partners - have criticised the open-door policy.

Hamburg's new law is described as a temporary, emergency measure. Owners of empty commercial properties will be compensated. The law does not include residential properties. 

The conservative opposition in the city, in the north of Germany, condemned the move.

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