Bemused refugees get emotional welcome in Germany

Migrants are welcomed by locals after their arrival at the main railway station in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany
Migrants are welcomed by locals after their arrival at the main railway station in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany

MUNICH, Germany: Having braved dangerous journeys to escape war, tired refugees from Syria and other conflict zones were stunned to receive a hero’s welcome as they arrived in Germany over the weekend.

In crowded train stations, hundreds of well-wishers cheered the often baffled newcomers, waving “welcome” signs as the migrants got out of packed trains in Munich, Frankfurt and other German cities.

Crowds of people holding balloons and snapping smartphone pictures gave them water, food and children’s toys as the record influx has sparked an unprecedented volunteer response.

“Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” chanted people at Frankfurt’s railway station overnight, as trains arrived with refugees who had travelled from Hungary through Austria.

In the southern city of Munich, Germany’s main hub for arrivals, a 47-year-old local woman in the crowd waved to a Syrian family arriving on the latest of dozens of special trains.

When the family with three children neared the police barricade looking skeptical, the woman handed them a bag, with chocolates, toys and an envelope inside.

“There’s a bit of money inside,” said the woman in English, before the Syrians, grateful smiles on their faces, were led on to be registered, the next step in their uncertain journey.

Arriving on another train, two boys, perhaps seven or eight years old, pushed out their chests like football stars and beamed smiles as they traversed the throng of applauding people.

In Munich’s railway station hall, large tables offered clothes and food to the new arrivals, staffed by some 90 helpers – including several Arabic speakers – working four-hour shifts.

“We have more than 1,000 volunteers who have signed up on lists and online and are ready to help,” said one of them, Colin Turner.

From the train station of the Bavarian state capital, the refugees have been taken by bus or local train to temporary shelters, including a school, a tennis centre and two halls of the Munich congress centre, which has room to house about 1,000 people.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has taken in by far the EU’s largest numbers of refugees amid the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. -AFP

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