After weeks of travel, hardships and uncertainty, some 8,000 exhausted refugees have finally made it to Germany. The mass exodus via Austria came after Hungary gave up on its attempts to stop the progress of asylum seekers and bused them to its northern border.
Arriving by trains from Salzburg, Austria on Saturday evening, the refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea were welcomed by cheering crowds. Upon their arrival Germans offered small toys to refugee kids as they made their way through the terminal.
A cluster of medical helpline and Red Cross tents were set up outside the station ready to assist with aid. In a stark contrast to the disorder refugees faced in Budapest, Arabic-speaking interpreters have been helping people at emergency registration centers in Munich.
Some 10,000 refugees were expected to arrive from Hungary, with the Upper Bavaria regional administration claiming that so far 8,000 have reached the safety of Germany. The last train pulled into Munich from Austria at 1:30am Sunday.
After arriving by train from Salzburg earlier in the evening, hundreds of refugees waited to start the next leg of their journey, hoping to be taken to Dortmund and Frankfurt on Sunday morning.
Following days of chaos and uncertainty, Hungary deployed dozens of buses on Friday night to take thousands of the migrants to the Austrian border, after Vienna agreed with Germany on asylum rules to allow migrants access. While some stayed in Hungary, the majority – mostly Syrians – went on to Germany.
Last month Germany decided to temporarily, with regards to refugees from Syria, halt the Dublin Regulation which stipulates that migrants can only claim asylum at their port of entry. Germany is now permitting and processing Syrian asylum applications even if migrants arrived through other EU countries first.
The Syrian case was justified as exceptional for humanitarian reasons. “The Dublin rules are still valid and we expect other European Union member states to stick to them,” said German Interior Ministry spokesman Harald Neymanns.
Germany accepted more than 100,000 refugees and migrants in August alone, while over 410,000 people registered on its initial registration system since January. Trying to focus on refugees from the conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa, Germany is now rejecting requests from migrants from countries it regards as safe, such as Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Due to its liberal asylum laws and generous benefits, Germany expects at least 800,000 requests for asylum by the end of the year.