Thousands of refugees receive warm welcome in Germany
Germany on Sunday readied for hundreds more refugees to arrive from Hungary via Austria, a day after thousands were greeted, often by volunteers holding signs that read “Welcome to Germany”.
The most populous EU nation — which this year expects to take in a record 800,000 people fleeing war and poverty — has seen an unprecedented volunteer effort to help the newcomers.
On Saturday alone about 8,000 migrants crossed German borders, federal police told AFP.
In Munich, refugee families holding their children and few belongings smiled as they were greeted with cheers, food and water bottles by crowds.
At the Munich railway station about 6,800 arrived Saturday alone, said Bavarian state officials.
As refugees got off trains, police directed them to waiting buses to take them to temporary shelters, which have been set up in public buildings, hotels and army barracks across the country.
Dozens of people, standing behind barriers, whistled, clapped and filmed the newcomers with their mobile phones.
“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, whose eyes welled up with tears as he spoke.
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 Germany, given its dark history and current wealth, has a special obligation to help refugees.
At Frankfurt railway station overnight, food, water and clothes were piled high for the newcomers, while hundreds of people thronged the platforms.
When the doors of the trains opened, people cheered and whistled and a chant went up in English: “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”
One man, an Egyptian, who gave his name as Mustafa and said he had been living in Frankfurt for 20 years, was carrying an Arabic-language cardboard sign which he said spelled “warm welcome”.
Lara Sabbagh, a volunteer for an organisation called Kleeblatt based near Frankfurt, acted as a translator for some of the Syrian refugees.
She told bystanders to stop taking photographs, saying: “They’re afraid. They say they’ve just fled from their country and their ruler and don’t want to be photographed”.
She added that many of the migrants “didn’t understand all the commotion here.
“They asked me, ‘What are all these people doing here? What do they want?’
“They didn’t understand that people were here to welcome them.”