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Refugees flash victory signs and wipe away tears as they arrive at the main train station in Munich. AP
open arms

Tears of joy as Germany welcomes refugee trains streaming into Munich

Over 6,000 people have already arrived and tens of thousands more are expected in the coming weeks.

MET WITH GERMAN faces so friendly that it brought some to tears, over 6,000 migrants and refugees have reached Munich

Travellers predominantly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who had been told for days they could not leave Hungary were scooped from roadsides and Budapest’s central train station and placed on overnight buses, driven to the frontier with Austria and allowed to walk across as a new day dawned.

They were met with unexpected hospitality featuring free high-speed trains, seemingly bottomless boxes of supplies, and well-wishers offering candy for everyone and cuddly toys for the children in mothers’ arms. Even adults absorbed the sudden welcome with a look of wonderment as Germans and Austrians made clear that they had reached a land that just might become a home.

Germany Migrants Refugees arrive at the train station in Saalfeld, central Germany. Jens Meyer Jens Meyer

“I’m very glad to be in Germany I hope that I find here a much better life. I want to work,” said Homam Shehade, a 37-year-old Syrian shopkeeper who spent 25 days on the road. He left behind his parents, a brother, wife, a 7-year-old boy and a 2 ½-year-old girl.

He hopes to bring them all to Germany Until then, he said:

“I hope that God protects them from the planes and bombs. My shop was bombed and my house was bombed.”

As the migrants departed Hungary, leaders took a few final swipes at their departing guests.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told reporters that Hungary drove the migrants to the border only because they were posing a public menace, particularly by snarling traffic and rail lines west of Budapest.

Orban said the people being taken by Germany mostly come “from regions that are not ravaged by war. They just want to live the kind of life that we have. And I understand that, but this is impossible. If we let everybody in, it’s going to destroy Europe.”

The contrast could not have been greater in Vienna’s central train station. When around 400 asylum seekers arrived on the morning’s first border train, charity workers offered food, water and packages of hygiene products for men and women.

Germany Migrants Over 6,000 people have now arrived in Germany after travelling through Austria. AP AP

Austrian onlookers cheered the migrants’ arrival, with many shouting “Welcome!” in both German and Arabic. One Austrian woman pulled from her handbag a pair of children’s rubber rain boots and handed them to a Middle Eastern woman carrying a small boy.

Sami Al Halbi, a 28-year-old veterinarian from Hama in Syria, said he fled to avoid mandatory military service. “They asked me to join the army. I am educated. For years I’ve been holding a pen. I do not want to hold a weapon,” he said. “We all want to have a better future.”

Read: Asylum and refugees: How Ireland compares to the rest of the world >

It got better as travellers continued west on more trains, some of them specially provided for the migrants.As Austria’s government noted, virtually none of those coming intended to seek asylum before reaching Germany the eurozone powerhouse that has pledged to aid Syrians fleeing from their 4-year-old civil war. Germany expects to receive a staggering 800,000 asylum seekers this year.

Austria Germany Migrants Eight month old Maria and her father Ibrahim on a train from from Salzburg to Munich. Kerstin Joensson Kerstin Joensson

In Munich’s central station, the first arrivals from Hungary received cheering and applause. Many who had endured nights sleeping on crowded concrete floors at Budapest’s Keleti station appeared disoriented as Germans approached them holding trays of food. The youngest brightened up as teddy bears were offered as gifts.

“We are giving a warm welcome to these people today,” said Simone Hilgers, spokeswoman for Upper Bavaria government agencies tasked with providing the migrants immediate support.

“We realize it’s going to be a big challenge but everybody, the authorities and ordinary citizens, are pulling together.”

A total of about 6,000 people had come through Munich by Saturday evening, Hilgers said. All were given food and drink, and most were housed in temporary accommodation.

Read: ‘We cry about the Magdalene laundries but throw refugees into rat infested holiday camps’ >

Read: Dubliners got a chance to see what life is really like in Syria >

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