The huge influx of refugees seeking help in Germany has triggered an equally enormous surge in people’s readiness to help and welcome the new arrivals. Volunteers and public servants alike are on hand to take care of refugees left stranded at railway stations or in need of long-term accommodation.
The number of refugees arriving in Germany continues to rise. In an absolutely unprecedented action, Germany has just taken in thousands of refugees in response to the dramatic situation seen in Hungary. Last weekend alone almost 20,000 refugees arrived in Bavaria. In a statement to the press on Monday (7 September) Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the enormous dedication of many organisations, public servants and the innumerable volunteers who are taking care of refugees as they arrive, especially this last "moving, breath-taking" weekend.
Volunteers, like those in Munich, have been toiling tirelessly, handing out water, food, clothing and toys. The refugees were greeted on their arrival in several languages.
On Sunday volunteers in Dortmund welcomed more than 1,000 refugees with applause and welcome parcels, and did not let an anti-refugee demonstration the night before intimidate them in any way. In Hamburg too, a crowd of hundreds applauded refugees as they arrived. At the railway station in the Thuringian town of Saalfeld people clapped and waved, and sang in English "Refugees are welcome here", while in Lüchow in Lower Saxony, local people decorated cordons with balloons and sunflowers.
To help cope with the challenges posed by the rising numbers of refugees, the coalition has now agreed on a package of measures. The German government will be putting up another three billion euros to help the federal states and local authorities cope with the influx. Up to 10,000 new jobs are also to be created as part of the government’s voluntary service scheme.
The federal police force is to see a total of 3,000 additional jobs for the next three years. The federal police is also helping to register refugees as they arrive and passing them on to the authorities responsible. Last weekend in Stuttgart, for instance, 219 asylum-seekers arriving by train from Munich had no papers. The federal police officers handed out certificates giving them access to an initial reception centre in Karlsruhe.
Over the last few days the ASB (Workers’ Samaritan Federation) has worked with volunteers, voluntary fire officers and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) to create additional beds in emergency accommodation, for instance in Ahlen in North-Rhine Westphalia, where they are endeavouring to provide space for more refugees as quickly as possible in a local school. Across Germany people are working for organisations like the THW, the ASB, the AWO, Caritas and the German Red Cross, as part of the government’s voluntary service scheme.
Last week Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière expressed his hope that the current surge in people’s readiness to help can lead to a "culture of welcome" that can benefit Germany as a whole. "And we must take care, and here I call on all those who are involved, to ensure from the outset that we do not create new ghettos and new social problems that we will bitterly regret in ten years. If we are to achieve this we must keep the big picture in mind, and we must think outside the box. We will have to get used to the idea that our country is changing," said Thomas de Maizière in an interview with the weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT (on 3 September).