As Thousands More Migrants Reach Germany, Pope Francis Calls for European Sanctuary

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GERMANY-EUROPE-MIGRANTS
A refugee cries as he arrives at the main station in Dortmund, western Germany, on September 6, 2015.Photo: MAJA HITIJ

Pope Francis used his Sunday sermon at the Vatican to call on Europe’s Catholic and other religious communities to offer sanctuary to the waves of arriving migrants, and specifically asked Catholic institutions like parishes and convents to each consider sheltering a migrant family. According to the Washington Post’s Rick Noack, if all of Europe’s roughly 122,000 Catholic institutions answered that call, the effort could accommodate as many as 500,000 migrants — though it remains to be seen how the continent’s Catholics will respond to the request. 

Meanwhile in Germany, Reuters reports that some 11,000 migrants who had been stranded in Hungary arrived on Sunday, after nearly 7,000 had arrived Saturday, and officials there are now saying they are running out of room and resources to handle the influx. (Austrian officials tell the Associated Press that only 90 people have applied for asylum in Austria this weekend, with the rest all proceeding to Germany.) And politically, German chancellor Angela Merkel’s extremely welcoming stance regarding the migrants is causing friction with conservative lawmakers in her country, particularly those in Bavaria where many of the migrants are now ending up.

German officials expect some 800,000 migrants to arrive in the country this year, adding to the country’s general population of around 82 million people. As the New York Times points out, proponents of Germany’s open-arms policy see the integration of immigrants as a boost to the country’s aging demographics, while others worry about a loss of national identity, or about resentment over the government spending as much as $3.7 billion to assist the refugees next year. The Times also highlights how Germany has already experienced some significant anti-migrant backlash, including violence orchestrated against the newcomers by far-right elements within the country. Regarding this most recent influx, however, so far German citizens have overwhelmed authorities with their donations and offers of assistance for the migrants, though attention to the crisis is surely now at an all-time high.

In Austria, Chancellor Werner Faymann announced on Sunday that while the country had facilitated the migration of at least 13,000 people out of Hungary over the weekend, these past few days represented an “acute situation,” and Austria would soon revoke the emergency measures that have enabled so many migrants and refugees to easily enter the country. It remains to be seen what a retightening of restrictions would mean for the thousands of migrants who continue to attempt the journey up through the Balkans and Hungary. A majority of these migrants say they are from Syria, but a lot are from Afghanistan and the African nation of Eritrea as well, and as the Associated Press points out, many migrants ditch their nationalities before reaching Europe, knowing that they have a better chance of being granted asylum if they are considered a refugee from a war-torn country like Syria rather than an economic migrant escaping poverty from somewhere else.

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Exhausted migrants light campfires and sleep in a field after crossing the border from Serbia into Hungary along the railway tracks close to the village of Röszke.Photo: Christopher Furlong/2015 Getty Images

Looking at the full international crisis, The Guardian reports that the United Nations’ humanitarian agencies are now nearing bankruptcy as they attempt to aid the millions of refugees in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres told The Guardian that 42,000 people are currently being displaced each day — a number that has nearly quadrupled in the past five years — and that U.N. budgets have not been adequately expanded to accommodate the sudden surge. “The global humanitarian community is not broken — as a whole they are more effective than ever before. But we are financially broke,” he said.