After Hungary’s grim reception, trainloads greeted in Munich with thousands to come.

A stout music teacher brought homemade blueberry crumble because she thought "the refugees must be hungry". A young German mother coaxed smiles out of terrified children with balloons. But in the throng of well-wishers at the main Munich train station as streams of Syrians blocked for days in Hungary disembarked, perhaps a 69-year-old caretaker best summed up the message of this nation that more than any other in Europe is opening its doors.

"Willkommen!" yelled out Peter Schriever as he held up a sign that read: "Welcome Refugees".

Just off their train, Syrians Abed Almoen Alalie, wife Rukaya and their five small children couldn't believe what they saw. After being shouted at and manhandled in Hungary - a country that did not want them and tried to stop their passage - Rukaya, 32, stared at the cheering crowd and broke down in tears.

"Germany is the only country that is welcoming us," explained Alalie, a 37-year-old civil servant from Damascus who said his family was fleeing Syria's civil war.


Finland's Prime Minister may have offered his private home to refugees. A couple of thousand Austrians may have banded together on social media to carpool refugees out of Hungary. But in a Europe bitterly divided over how to handle its largest wave of migrants since World War II, it is, this time, the Germans who are coming to the rescue.

No one will ever realise the human toll that war creates unless you have lived it yourself... You can watch it on your television news... But as soon as you switch it off... Reality seems distance away... And you carry on with your daily life as if what you watched was just some fictional take... For some like myself... Today became reality... Faces on television, suddenly had names... Smiles on the faces suddenly were there... Today I witnessed history in the making as never ever seen since WWII. Today I saw an influx of War Refugees fleeing there homelands... Doctors, Lawyers, students, children... The list goes on... The compassion they received by Germans were immense... And as a Expat-Kiwi I was so proud at what I saw... So with that said, I thought I would share with you a little of what I was involved in today. I like to title it "Munich With Love" Scott Hebden #SyriaRefugees05092015Munich Please SHARE and Spread the word "These are not quotas. They are human lives"

Posted by Scott Hebden on Saturday, September 5, 2015

The mother lode of migrants are aiming for Europe's economic powerhouse, a nation that has laid out one of the region's most generous and accepting asylum policies. After agreeing to take busloads of migrants off Hungary's hands, for instance, more than 6000 new arrivals arrived in Munich. Nationwide, Germany recorded 100,000 migrants last month alone. By the end of the year, authorities are estimating at least 800,000 refugees will come.

Observers call it part of the burden of becoming the de facto leader of Europe. Berlin has already been called on to lead the 28-nation European Union through the tribulations of the Greek debt crisis as well as its standoff with Russia over Ukraine.

A little girl with her family arrive at the train station in Saalfeld, central Germany. Photo / AP
A little girl with her family arrive at the train station in Saalfeld, central Germany. Photo / AP

But on the issue of refugees Germany is, from a humanitarian point of view, leading by example. Last month, Germany unilaterally waived its right to deport Syrians back to the first European Union nation they entered, effectively agreeing to let most of those who are able to make it here stay. That has been backed up by an 87 per cent acceptance rate of Syrians who apply for asylum.

"The fundamental right to asylum does not have a limitation," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. "As a strong, economically healthy country, we have the strength to do what is necessary."

Merkel, in fact, has gone over the course of just a few weeks from being depicted by angry Greeks as Adolf Hitler to being "Mama Merkel, Mother of Outcasts", as one Syrian refugee Facebook page now proclaims.

Refugee at the train station in Germany. Photo / AP
Refugee at the train station in Germany. Photo / AP

At the crammed Munich train station, arriving streams of dazed refugees were gently herded into feeding stations and medical aid tents, before being bussed to reception centres for hot meals and processing. Locals donated food and clothing, so much that the police said they couldn't take any more.

The Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel ran a "how to" piece for people who want to take in a refugee.


And yet, there are limits to German generosity, too. Those claiming asylum here from non-war torn nations stand a far higher chance of rejection. The German far-right is also striking back, including a series of arsons targeting centres and homes for refugees.

The surge of new arrivals is stoking broad concerns about how and whether the newcomers - who include many conservative Muslims - will adapt to the liberal norms in a progressive country. Language classes, social support and other forms of aid - a single refugee here, for instance, gets about 350 ($620) a month in addition to housing - are set to cost Germany many millions.

Refugees arrive at the train station in Saalfeld, central Germany. Photo / AP
Refugees arrive at the train station in Saalfeld, central Germany. Photo / AP

Many Germans see the welcome as a measure of redemption for Germany's dark past.

Assad biggest killer in Syrian war

President Bashar al-Assad's Government has killed far more people in Syria this year than Isis (Islamic State), monitoring organisations and analysts say, even as the extremist group grabs headlines with its shocking brutality.

From January to July, Assad's military and pro-government militias killed 7894 people, while Isis killed 1131, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain.

In a single day last month, government airstrikes are said to have killed more than 100 people in a residential area of Douma, a suburb of the capital, Damascus.

Government forces are responsible for many more of the estimated 250,000 deaths in the four-year conflict than Isis militants and rebel groups. Analysts say the figures show Assad's indiscriminate violence has empowered Isis and other extremist groups and forced millions of Syrians to flee.

"We can't forget that the Assad regime has been the main source of death and destruction in Syria since 2011," said Emile Hokayem, of London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. "You can't solve the conflict unless you find a way to address this, which the world hasn't."

The conflict began in 2011 as a peaceful Arab Spring uprising that turned violent, many Syrians say, because of Assad's brutal response to protests against his rule. But Isis took world attention only a year ago as it stormed over parts of Syria and Iraq.

As the spotlight shifted to the group's grisly beheadings and mass executions, Assad's forces continued to ravage entire neighbourhoods.

The Syrian leader has increasingly relied on his air force - by far his most lethal weapon - as his military suffers huge losses to advancing rebels, analysts say. Assad now controls less than half of Syria's territory, even though no opposition group possesses air power.

Shifting west
•More than 7000 refugees surged across Hungary's western border into Austria and Germany.
•Hungary placed refugees on buses and trains to Nickelsdorf on the Austrian border and they caught trains to Vienna and Munich.
•When around 400 refugees arrived in Vienna on the first border train, charity workers offered food, water and packages of hygiene products. Austrian onlookers cheered.
•Hundreds more were walking to the border from Budapest and a migrant camp at Gyor.
•Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is on his way to Geneva to talk to the UN's refugee agency on what more Australia can do to help.
•The British Government is poised to accept 15,000 Syrian refugees, the Sunday Times reported.

- additional reporting Bloomberg