The European migrant crisis hasn’t given most people a reason to smile. From the unforgettable pictures of a drowned Syrian boy to the hundreds of migrants who drowned just off the Italian shore to the horrific discovery of dead migrants in a truck in Hungary, the stories have focused on an understandably grim situation. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Thousands of people have gathered all over Europe (and Australia) to march in support of the migrants. London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, the Hague, and Sydney held demonstrations saying they welcome the migrants and to open the borders for them.
The citizens of the European countries that took in the migrants aren’t just waving signs around, either. Germany has already welcomed over 10,000 migrants, and not simply by taking them in. When a group of migrants arrived by train from Hungary, where they had been displaced, Germans came to the station to welcome them, holding up “welcome” signs in two languages and giving the new arrivals food, water, and clothing. Children received sweets, toys, and balloons. One migrant expressed incredulity that the Germans treated him and the other refugees “like real human beings.” Buses took the migrants to temporary shelters that had been set up for them. More are expected to arrive this week. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has stated in advance any Syrian migrants will be automatically given asylum.
There have been similar scenes in Austria. When Hungary stopped letting refugees travel by train, they did provide buses which took some of the stranded migrants to Austria. Volunteers set up a Red Cross booth where the migrants could get tea and handshakes. So many migrants were walking to Vienna that the freeways were shut down.
Other, non-European Union countries have also volunteered to step in. Over 10,000 Icelanders volunteered their homes to migrants after officials said they would only take in 50. Several Latin American nations have offered to take in migrants, including Brazil, Chile, and Venezuela. The U.S. has typically welcomed only 1500 Syrians a year, but is considering welcoming more.
Hungary, unfortunately, has been a stumbling block in the European response to the migrants. Unlike the European Union representatives who have called the migrants refugees from war-torn nations, many Hungarian officials have argued that most of them are simply traveling to Europe for its economic advantages and cannot be counted as refugees or asylum-seekers. Plans to build a fence to block off the Serbian border so more migrants cannot get through have been criticized by many European officials, but are going on regardless.
(Photo by Philipp Guelland/Getty Images)