Thousands of refugees receive warm welcome in Germany
Hundreds of migrants streamed into Germany on Sunday to cheers and “welcome” signs, joining the thousands who arrived the previous day as Austria called for an emergency EU summit on the continent’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann warned his country’s admittance of thousands of refugees crossing from Hungary was just a “temporary” measure and urged the 28-member European Union to collectively deal with the record numbers.
Masses of people fleeing war and misery from Syria, Iraq and beyond have rushed from Hungary through Austria into Germany, which expects to take in 800,000 refugees this year at a cost of 10 billion euros ($11 billion).
In moving scenes the newcomers, clutching their children and sparse belongings, stepped off trains in Munich, Frankfurt and elsewhere to cheers from well-wishers who held balloons, snapped photos and gave them water and food.
“The people here treat us so well, they treat us like real human beings, not like in Syria,” said Mohammad, a 32-year-old from the devastated town of Qusayr, his eyes welling up with tears.
With the EU divided along east-west lines on how to handle the record numbers, Pope Francis called for every Catholic parish to take in a refugee family.
On Saturday alone about 8,000 migrants crossed German borders, federal police told AFP.
In Munich, some 1,200 came in early Sunday, a day after trains brought 6,800 to the southern German city.
As refugees got off trains, police directed them to waiting buses bound for temporary shelters, which have been set up in public buildings, hotels and army barracks across the country.
“Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” crowds chanted at the Frankfurt railway station overnight.
While Germany has seen a spate of ugly xenophobic rallies and attacks against foreigners, it has also seen an outpouring of support, donations and volunteer efforts by people who believe the country, given its dark history and current wealth, has a special obligation to help refugees.
Nonetheless, politicians in Germany and elsewhere in Europe have voiced growing concern about the record numbers, and warned the influx would spell both logistical and political problems.
In Austria, Faymann said that Vienna’s assistance was a temporary manifestation of Vienna’s “goodwill” in the face of a humanitarian emergency.
“There is no alternative to a common European solution,” said Faymann, calling for a summit of EU leaders “immediately after” an interior ministers’ meeting on September 14, the APA news agency reported.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday spoke by phone with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has called the refugee wave a “German problem” caused by Berlin’s public statement saying it would welcome Syrians. —Agencies