BERLIN, Germany, Sep 7 – Thousands of exhausted refugees received a hero’s welcome Sunday as they streamed into Western Europe, but Austria warned the emergency measures are only “temporary” as the EU struggles to establish a united response to the crisis.
As crowds of well-wishers turned out at train stations across Germany to greet the new arrivals, the UN’s refugee chief said the crisis could be “manageable” if European countries all pulled their weight and agreed on a common approach.
The issue is expected to dominate Europe’s political agenda on Monday, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to meet Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in Berlin and the EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner will hold talks with Austrian officials in Vienna.
Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II has sparked a flurry of diplomatic wrangling, with Turkey reacting furiously to what it called the closed-doors response of “Christian fortress Europe” as refugees stream across its soil.
But in Munich, Frankfurt and other cities, the welcome for thousands of refugees who had made a perilous trip across land and sea and finally set foot in Germany – seen by many as a promised land – was overwhelming.
As they stepped off trains in Munich, many clutching young children, the newcomers were met by crowds of cheering well-wishers holding balloons, who handed them food, water and toys.
Dismounting from one 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.
“The people here treat us so well, they treat us like real human beings, not like in Syria,” said Mohammad, 32, from the devastated town of Qusayr, his eyes welling up with tears.
German police said a record 14,000 people had arrived from Austria over the weekend by late afternoon on Sunday, the majority of them fleeing the civil war in Syria, and some 3,000 more were expected during the evening.