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Messe Frankfurt converts exhibition hall into Ukrainian refugee centre

The world's largest trade show organizer is building a first aid centre with emergency accommodation at its Frankfurt, Germany exhibition centre to assist refugees fleeing from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Earlier this week, Messe Frankfurt suspended all trade shows in Russia, joining a growing number of print industry companies taking action.

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First aid centre in Messe Frankfurt's exhibition hall 1. (l-r): Uwe Behm, board of management member, Messe Frankfurt; Elke Voitl, City of Frankfurt; Peter Feldmann, Lord Mayor of Frankfurt and chair of the supervisory board, Messe Frankfurt. © City of Frankfurt am Main/ Ben Kilb

“More and more people seeking protection from Ukraine are currently arriving in Frankfurt by train, bus, plane or private car,” said Messe Frankfurt, the organiser of hundreds of global trade events including Heimtextil, Techtexil, Paperworld and DSprintech China. "For days, those responsible have been preparing intensively to prevent a situation like the one in Berlin. A corresponding operational order from the state to the city's lower disaster control authority to create a first aid centre was issued on Wednesday."

Authorities in Berlin, struggling to cope with a flood of Ukrainian refugees, this week called on the German government to help transfer thousands of people to other parts of the country.

“A first aid centre with emergency accommodation for refugees from Ukraine is being built at Messe Frankfurt from the end of this week," Messe Frankfurt said. "In Hall 1 on the Frankfurt exhibition grounds, there will be a first port of call where everything necessary will be provided until the people can be placed in longer-term accommodation throughout Hesse. A contract to this effect was concluded with the city at short notice and without red tape.”

Peter Feldmann, Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt, said: "The people fleeing to us from Ukraine need our help. They must be able to trust that our declarations of solidarity are not just lip service. That is why the first aid centre that we are setting up at short notice at our trade fair is so important. Frankfurt is a cosmopolitan city that has become a second home for many refugees in its history. Let's show the people from Ukraine that they are welcome here."

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   Hall 1 at Messe Frankfurt, Germany

The emergency shelter will initially be set up in Hall 1.1 and can also be extended to the second level, Hall 1.2, if required.

"I am pleased that the state has taken up my suggestion that the distribution of people in Hesse should also be managed from Frankfurt and has given us the corresponding operational order," says Frankfurt's head of social affairs, Elke Voitl. "This saves the refugees further journeys after the exhausting flight. In our experience so far, most people arrive here traumatised, very exhausted and often hungry. About half of those seeking protection are children and young people. For them, it is particularly important to quickly have a protected and safe place to breathe again. We want to create this here in Frankfurt with the fair near the main railway station, together with all our forces.”

The shelter is run by the German Red Cross (DRK) and the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB). Messe Frankfurt is responsible for the construction and other services within the accommodation.

"We have quickly and unbureaucratically set up emergency accommodation on our exhibition grounds in Hall 1, as immediate assistance is required," says Uwe Behm, a board member of Messe Frankfurt. "This has become a first point of contact or intermediate station to provide people who have had to flee Ukraine with everything they need until they can be placed in longer-term accommodation."

In addition to the preparations of infrastructure on the exhibition grounds, Fairconstruction, a subsidiary of Messe Frankfurt, is helping to equip two sports halls for refugees in Frankfurt with stand construction materials.

Messe Frankfurt, founded in 1907, is the world's largest trade fair, congress and event organizer with its own exhibition grounds. The organisation has 2,500 employees at 30 locations, generating annual sales of around €661 million.