A bus carrying 31 Syrian refugees arrived from southern Germany in Berlin on Thursday night as a district councillor in Bavaria followed up on his pledge to Chancellor Angela Merkel that he’d send refugees her way if his district could no longer provide accommodation for them.
The act came amid ongoing concerns about how Germany will deal with the 1.1 million asylum-seekers that flooded in last year. Peter Dreier, a Landshut district councillor, said he wanted to “send a sign that refugee policy cannot continue like this”.
Dreier said he had talked with Merkel on the phone last year. He said he warned her that Landshut was reaching its capacity for housing asylum-seekers and told her he’d put refugees on buses to Berlin if his district could no longer handle the influx.
The bus arrived shortly after 6pm (1700 GMT) in front of Merkel’s chancellery in the centre of Berlin. Several police officers led the 31 refugees from their bus directly into another bus waiting nearby. German news channel n-tv, which covered the arrival of the bus live, said the refugees would be taken to different shelters in the city where they could spend the night.
Both n-tv and Zeit newspaper’s online edition reported their reporters had talked to refugees during the ride to Berlin and that the migrants didn’t know the trip had been organised as an act to criticise Merkel’s refugee policy.
The refugees thought of the trip to the German capital as an opportunity and were upset when they found out they had been used by Landshut politicians to make a stance against the federal government’s policy, both outlets reported.
Landshut spokesperson Elmar Stoettner told The Associated Press earlier on Thursday that all 31 refugees on the bus had been granted asylum in Germany and volunteered to participate in the bus trip.
Some have relatives in the German capital and others will probably “go back to Bavaria if in Berlin they say that they don’t want them”.
Dreier said in a statement that the 66 migrant homes in his district are full and that in addition to the asylum-seekers, about 450 people who have received asylum are also still living there because they can’t find apartments.
Most migrants who arrive in Germany first set foot in Bavaria, and cities and communities there, as well as elsewhere across the country, have been struggling for months to provide accommodation for them.