A bus that carried 31 Syrian refugees to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office in protest returned today to the small town that organised the road trip widely condemned as a political stunt.
The Bavarian district chief behind Thursday’s journey to Berlin, Peter Dreier, had called it an “act of desperation” as his southern rural area buckled under the strain of a mass influx that brought 1.1 million migrants to Germany last year.
The coach had arrived today evening after a 570 kilometre (350 mile) trip outside the chancellery building of Merkel, who declined to send her staff to negotiate with the provincial official.
Berlin city representatives instead went on board and offered the group of men emergency accommodation for a night.
In absurd scenes, some 100 journalists, as well as a sprinkling of anti-Merkel protesters, stayed in a throng around the coach for two hours, while tense-faced Berlin and Bavarian officials negotiated inside, and refugees watched the TV cameras with anguished expressions.
In the end, the bus left with a police escort, and Dreier told the press he was disappointed Merkel’s people hadn’t come to talk to him.
He said he would pay for a night in a hotel for the group, out of his own pocket.
Today morning, the bus was back on the road to Bavaria, to the southern town of Landshut, which had organised the high-profile trip — with the refugees inside described as angry and disappointed.
Berlin Mayor Michael Maeller called the trip a sign of a “breakdown of solidarity” in how local governments handle the migrant influx, while Bavarian Social Democrats leader Florian Pronold condemned the “PR stunt”.
Only one of the Syrian men — all of whom have official asylum status and are free to move anywhere in Germany — had decided to stay in the capital, while another wanted to head to the northern city of Bremen, Landshut officials said.