Europe was insensitive towards their progress while for weeks in a row while they traveled a punishing road. On Saturday, however, for the very first time since leaving their tormented countries behind, they finally entered the “promised land “. The refugees ware received with such warmth that some newcomers broke into tears of joy.
More than 7,000 Arab and Asian asylum seekers surged across Hungary’s western border into Austria and Germany following the latest in a string of erratic policy U-turns by Hungary’s immigrant-loathing government. Within hours, travelers predominantly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who had been told for days they could not leave Hungary were scooped from roadsides and Budapest’s central train station and placed on overnight buses, driven to the frontier with Austria and allowed to walk across as a new morning dawned.
They were met with wholly unexpected hospitality featuring free high-speed trains, seemingly bottomless boxes of supplies, and gauntlets of well-wishers offering trays of candy for everyone and cuddly toys for the tots in mothers’ arms. Even adults absorbed the scenes of sudden welcome with a look of childlike wonderment as Germans and Austrians made clear that they had reached a land that just might become a home.
“I’m very glad to be in Germany. I hope that I find here a much better life. I want to work,” said Homam Shehade, a 37-year-old Syrian shopkeeper who spent 25 days on the road. He left behind his parents, a brother, wife, a 7-year-old boy and a 2 1/2-year-old girl. He hopes to bring them all to Germany. Until then, he said: “I hope that God protects them from the planes and bombs. My shop was bombed and my house was bombed.”