Berlin // Thousands of migrants streamed into Germany on Sunday, greeted with cheers and welcome signs, as Pope Francis called on every Catholic parish in Europe to take in a refugee family.
Newcomers, clutching their children and sparse belongings, stepped off trains to applause from well-wishers who gave them water, food and clothes.
German police said they expected a record 10,000 refugees to arrive in Bavaria alone by the end of the day.
“The people here treat us so well, they treat us like real human beings, not like in Syria,” said Mohammad, 32, from Qusayr, his eyes welling up.
Europe’s worst refugee crisis since the Second World War has exposed a growing east-west rift within the European Union, with frontline Hungary – which at first held back migrants, but later sent them on to Austria and Germany – rejecting the bloc’s “failed immigration policy”.
Hungary’s conservative prime minister Viktor Orban has voiced concern about mostly Muslim refugees undermining what he called Europe’s Christian identity.
Pope Francis, however, stressed on Sunday it was Christian to help those in need and urged “every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe” to take in a family.
“Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of asylum-seekers fleeing death (as) victims of war and hunger who are hoping to start a new life, the gospel calls on us to be the neighbour of the smallest and the most abandoned, to give them concrete hope,” he said in Rome.
The Vatican’s two parishes would take in two refugee families “in the coming days”, he said, setting an example for more than 50,000 other parishes across the continent.
As train and busloads have kept on coming from Hungary, Germany took in another 6,000 people by Sunday afternoon and expected 4,000 more that day, after about 8,000 refugees arrived on Saturday.
In all,Germany expected 800,000 new asylum applications this year – four times last year’s total and more than any other EU nation -- at an estimated cost to the state of €10 billion (Dh41bn).
In a sign the exodus from Syria showed no sign of abating, rescuers in Cyprus said they had saved more than 100 refugees after their boat ran into trouble.
But Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann warned Sunday his country’s admittance of the refugees crossing from Hungary was just temporary.
“There is no alternative to a common European solution,” said Mr Faymann, who called for an EU summit after an interior ministers’ meeting next Monday.
Berlin and other capitals have called for binding refugee quotas for each EU nation, and common rules for asylum.
With many migrants still crossing to Greek islands close to Turkey, Athens on Sunday sent more troops to Lesbos after fresh clashes between police and migrants, while Syrian refugees on the island were targeted in Molotov cocktail attacks.
There have been repeated clashes between police and migrants, and between migrants themselves, over delays in registration process that has seen thousands stuck there unable to travel on to northern Europe.
* Agence France-Presse