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Despite Warm Welcome, There's A Backlash Against Migrants In Germany


On Sunday yesterday, amidst the migrant crisis in Europe, Pope Francis appealed to Catholics and Europeans to step up and take in refugee families.


POPE FRANCIS: (Through interpreter) May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe take in one family.

MONTAGNE: That was from Vatican Radio, and the Vatican itself has committed to fostering two families in parishes there. Many thousands of migrants from Syria and elsewhere were finally allowed to cross from Hungary into Austria and Germany over the weekend. Still, there are growing signs that the welcome is not open-ended. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Munich, where an overwhelming majority of the migrants went.


SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: This welcoming scene was repeated many times this past weekend as scores of Germans applauded more than 11,000 newcomers to the Bavarian capital who mostly arrived by train. The newcomers were surprised by the reception. Syrian Ahmed Remo says he was exhausted yet relieved to see so many well-wishers after his month-long, dangerous and difficult trip.

AHMED REMO: I just want say thanks for Mama Merkel and Germany. Thanks for God I'm feeling so good.

NELSON: The migrants were given food and medical treatment while intake workers dispensed with the normal registration process for people seeking asylum. Instead, the newcomers were quickly parceled out across Germany using a decades-old formula that assigns migrants to cities and states based on their population size. Simone Hilgers is a spokeswoman for the Upper Bavarian government.

SIMONE HILGERS: They were all cared for. We are well prepared. Only 15 percent will stay in Munich. The rest will be spread around Germany and Bavaria.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: Volunteers waved goodbye to the migrants who boarded buses leaving the train station for cities around Germany. One of the newcomers waiting to board was Muhammad Amer al Salam who was being sent to Berlin.

MUHAMMAD AMER AL SALAM: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: The Syrian says he's very happy to finally be in Germany and plans to join his brother, although he isn't sure what town he's in. He adds, anywhere they send me is no problem, although he hopes it's near where his brother lives. But the warm reception isn't likely to last much longer. The Austrian chancellor announced police there will resume border checks to stop undocumented migrants.

Overnight, German police investigated a suspicious fire that injured three migrants in a group home in the town of Rottenburg. It was the second suspected arson of a migrant building in southwestern Germany in four days. Also, one of the main coalition partners of German Chancellor Merkel's government chastised her for opening the borders, even temporarily.


HORST SEEHOFER: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: The faction's leader, Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer, told reporters we in the EU can't keep taking in refugees from different countries over the long term. No society can survive that. Despite a contentious meeting in Berlin last night, the ruling coalition announced it would spend an additional $7 billion to deal with the quadrupling of asylum-seekers in Germany this year. Half the money will go to states and cities charged with resettling them. But the coalition also announced steps making it more difficult for many migrants to get asylum here, especially those from the Balkans. And monthly cash payments to new migrants could soon be replaced with coupons for food and clothing in a bid to make Germany a less attractive destination. But German Labour and Social Affairs Minister Andrea Nahles offered some good news to the newcomers, namely federal help to get them into the job market.


ANDREA NAHLES: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: In an interview with German public television network ARD, she says the migrants are a large, if unrealized, gift for Germany, which is struggling with an aging population and an acute labor shortage. Nahles says her agency is quickly working to offer more language courses and what training migrants need so they can be integrated into the German workforce. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Munich.

MONTAGNE: David Blanchard of Oregon Public Broadcasting contributed to this report. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
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