On Saturday I was in Munich, at the railway station. Many thousands refugees had been announced. As soon as I got off the train, I noticed policemen. Everywhere policemen. And then I saw them, the refugees. They were held separate with a rope and only registered volunteers, police and them had permission to enter that area.
When I arrived there were around thirty refugees outside the arches. I asked what was going on inside the archway. “There they get water, food and a first medical check is carried out,” was the answer I was given.
I saw a policeman slapping a child by mistake. He just turned and the child was behind him. No reaction. I did not expect any reaction from the policeman. But I would have expected one from the child. But it was as if he was used to it. As if he cared about nothing.
I saw a very young child (maybe 2 years old) going bananas and shouting out loudly at seeing a dog. He wanted to step out the area and stroke the animal. The policeman immediately grabbed him and threw him back to the crowd. It was just a reaction to a dog. It was just a child.
I saw a mother sharing biscuits with her daughter, and taking one out of the daughter´s mouth. She was probably hungry. Otherwise why would you take your child´s food?
I saw a Syrian baby toddle toward me as I was offering a lollipop. The little girl could not open it. Maybe it was seeing it for the first time in her life. Her brother also had his difficulties and I offered to help him. As he had taken the paper in the mouth, he first cleaned the lollipop on his sweatshirt and then handed it over to me. He then nodded his head for thanking me.
I also saw volunteers spending their weekend helping the refugees. Actually, organisations are overwhelmed by people who are offering their time, money and material things. There has been a surprising solidarity wave in many parts of Germany. Munich and Bavaria belong to them. I have seen old people buying sweets and chocolates for Syrian, Egyptian, Pakistani and Afghan children as if they were their grandkids. I saw tons of water bottles, sweets, clothes and blankets waiting for being distributed. I saw children saying “Thank you” when given a sweet, people clapping their hands and welcoming refugees, wishing them good luck for their future.
I spoke with Khalid, a Syrian man who moved to Germany in 1982. He was waiting for his cousin. And he was also helping people, explaining them what was going on, what would happen in the coming days. “They are confused”, he told me, “they get diverse information and most of them do not speak nor understand English, so communication is very difficult.” I asked him if the refugees who were arriving there were the poorest ones, as I saw the majority with cellular phones, tablets and other technological tools. “No”, he answered, “the wealthiest ones have left the country years ago. These here are barely above the average. The poorest are still in Syria.” I also asked him what people expect from a life in Europe, or Germany. “Their expectations are very high”, Khalid stated, “they come here with the belief they will find a well- paid job. This is the first shock. The integration will also be difficult: European and Arabic mentalities are very different. So there might be many clashes during daily life. But first, they must understand how to make the first steps. This is why I am here today.”
Then I met Jaad, another Syrian guy who had reached Munich on Friday. “Now we are waiting for our train to Hamburg, where friends of ours live. There I will create a new life for my family, InshAllah. I have got an MBA and hope to find a job as soon as I have learned German.” They look exhausted. The kids are dirty, tired and hungry. “It was not possible for us to stay in Syria any more. The war will not stop in the next months and conditions are getting worse.” While telling me his story, his son, who was sitting on my lap, ate a muffin. A whole muffin. That’s what I call health!