Mon, Sep 07, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Refugees met with ‘welcome’ signs in Germany

PAPAL PLEA:Pope Francis weighed in on the crisis, calling for ‘every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe’ to take in a family

AFP, BERLIN

Hundreds of migrants streamed into Germany yesterday 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 said his nation’s admittance of thousands of refugees crossing from Hungary was just a “temporary” measure and urged the 28-member EU 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 (US$11.15 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 photographs 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 Syrian town of al-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 reporters.

In Munich, about 1,200 came in early yesterday, a day after trains brought 6,800 to the southern German city.

As refugees disembarked from 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 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.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday spoke by telephone with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has called the refugee wave a “German problem” caused by Berlin’s public statement saying it would welcome Syrians.

“Both sides agreed that both Hungary and Germany must meet their European obligations, including their obligations under the Dublin agreement,” Merkel’s spokesman Georg Streiter said.

Under the EU’s Dublin Regulation, asylum applications must be processed by the nation where a person first arrives.

Orban and Merkel had agreed that the weekend influx was exceptional, due to the emergency situation in Budapest, Streiter said.

Merkel was scheduled to hold a crisis meeting on the refugee issue today with her coalition partners.

Pope Francis called for “every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe’ to take in a family.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Saturday said 366,402 migrants had crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year, with 2,800 dying or going missing en route.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has proposed relocating 120,000 refugees from overstretched Italy, Greece and Hungary, a European source has told reporters.

The plan is expected to be formally unveiled by Juncker on Wednesday after being approved by Commissioners, the source said.

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