Austrian and German citizens gathered to welcome thousands of refugees who were arriving by trains coming from the Hungarian border on September 1.
The evening before, the Hungarian police at Budapest's train station suddenly allowed refugees to enter trains leaving towards the Austrian border. Previously, refugees were forced to stay at train stations and in temporary camps in Hungary.
Journalist Christoph Schattleitner describes how at Vienna's train station, by 10 p.m. on Monday evening hundreds of people had arrived with donations they bought at a nearby supermarket. The outpouring of water, food and sanitary products was overwhelming, forcing some platforms to be closed. Authorities eventually had to urge people to stop providing more donations.
When refugees reported to be from Afghanistan, Eritrea and Syria arrived in Vienna on their way to Germany, they were met with cheers and applause:
Tosender Applaus. Österreich heißt Flüchtlinge willkommen. pic.twitter.com/BmCEVvCUIB
— Christoph (@Schattleitner) 31. August 2015
Thunderous applause. Austria says ‘Refugees Welcome’
— jürg christandl (@JChristandl) 31. August 2015
Happiness at the West train station
— Linz gegen Rechts (@LinzGegenRechts) 1. September 2015
The Muslim Youth of Austria helps with translating boxes of medical supplied to Arabic!
In Munich in southern Germany, more than 3,000 refugees arrived on Tuesday morning. Also in Germany, citizens gathered at the train station to help with donations and welcome the exhausted refugees. The hashtag #trainofhope was used to organize volunteers, advertise what supplies and products were needed and tell people how they can help.
— Jonas Jansen (@vierzueinser) 1. September 2015
#refugeeswelcome to the max: Refugee family is escorted [out of the train station]. Supporters line up with umbrellas, give away soft toys.
This was very impressive today
— Reflektierter Bengel (@R_Bengel) 1. September 2015
Supporters arrange the donations in front of the central station
At some point the police in Munich urged people to stop donating:
Please do not bring any more goods for the Moment.The donations at hand will be sufficient for the refugees present and arriving today.
— Polizei München (@PolizeiMuenchen) 1. September 2015
Other organizations urged people to offer their mobile wifi hotspots and shops in the central station to open their routers to the arriving refugees:
— Freifunk München (@FreifunkMUC) 1. September 2015
We want to install wifi at the central station in Munich. Are there any shops close to the station who would install a router?
Refugees arriving in Germany have heavily relied on the kindness of citizens until recently, when the government ramped up its own efforts. Last week, Germany announced that it will allow all Syrian refugees to stay and apply for asylum instead of deporting them to their first port of entry, in accordance with European Union regulations.
Europe is experiencing a tremendous influx of refugees due to conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq as well as violence and instability elsewhere in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Dangerous crossings over the Mediterranean have also increased. Thus far, countries on the coast such as Greece and Italy have received a disproportionate number of refugees, while the Eastern European countries of Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland have resisted calls for a quota system to spread asylum-seekers out among the EU member states.
As European leaders bicker over how to deal with the crisis, people have lost their lives trying to reach the safety of the continent. Thousands have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean, according to the UN refugee agency. In late August, a truck with the bodies of 71 people was discovered on the side of an Austrian road; authorities say the victims, who are assumed to be refugees, suffocated.
As refugees made their way to Germany this week, many online users expressed their gratitude for and awe at the wave of solidarity among Germans and Austrians:
Man kann den Helfern, die den Flüchtlingen bei der Ankunft am Bahnhof und überall sonst helfen, gar nicht genug danken! DANKE! #trainofhope
— Julia Probst (@EinAugenschmaus) 1. September 2015
You cannot thank people for their support enough, those who are helping the refugees arriving at train stations or anywhere else. THANK YOU!
Es läuft auch etwas fundamental richtig in diesem Land. Man übersieht es oft, heute ist es nicht zu übersehen. #trainofhope
— Martin Hoffmann (@ErzaehlerMartin) 1. September 2015
Something is working fundamentally right in this country. You overlook it often, but today it is impossible not to see it.