by Joyce Man
In the night leading up to September 1 news started coming in that hundreds of asylum seekers were making their way via the Balkan route through Hungary and Austria to Munich — a popular stop in Germany, a top destination in Europe for those seeking refuge. By early morning, the Munich police had announced that 590 had arrived.
Indeed by 11 a.m. crowds were streaming in on platforms 11 to 13 where trains from Keleti station in Budapest and Vienna, Austria, stopped. They were escorted by the police in a calm, orderly manner to receive food and water at a square outside the station before lining up to board buses to get registered by the authorities.
Among the passengers were exhausted elderly women and families with young children. Many said they had come from Iraq or Syria over the now well-known and increasingly popular route via Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Austria and Hungary. Many also reported paying upwards of €1,200 each to make the water crossing from Turkey to Greece, and walking the rest of the way.
Dozens of police and train security personnel lined up waiting for the hundreds of people that came each time a train arrived from Austria or Hungary, every half hour to one hour. Each time, they would escort them to the square and funnel them into a side hall to receive food, water and basic necessities, in a procedure that appeared practiced and well-organized.
Instead of the cold, high-security atmosphere that some media had predicted, scenes at the station remained calm and even warmed up as some officers helped the new arrivals and played with the children.
As word got out, officials, residents and politicians voiced worries about how the state was going to accommodate them. But many more residents showed up to welcome the asylum seekers, bringing donations to the hall, where supplies were temporarily housed.
Many who came with donations had to be turned away, like Vanessa Blind and Mickel Pentsch, who had brought unsold organic bread.
During the day, Hungarian officials stopped migrants from boarding westbound trains. As of nightfall, the stream in Munich slowed. Though crowds continued to arrive as commuters headed home from work, the chaos that some predicted did not materialize.