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German odyssey complete, refugees face challenges getting settled

After the initial fanfare, what conditions and reception can thousands of refugees expect when they reach Germany? Matt Frei of Independent Television News reports from Berlin.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But, first, as we have been reporting, thousands of Syrian refugees and others arrived in Germany over the weekend, sometimes to cheering crowds.

    Tonight, we take a look at what it's like after the fanfare fades.

    Matt Frei of Independent Television News filed this report from Berlin.

  • MATT FREI:

    On a hot late summer's day, a walk in the park in Moabit in Central Berlin revealed something unexpected. At first, you might think the clusters of people in the shade on the grass are here for a picnic. But then you notice their luggage and their children and their despair, and the numbing fatigue of ordinary families for whom the extraordinary has become the new normal.

    Most of the people here are Syrian refugees. The last time they slept in their own beds could have been a year ago, perhaps two years ago. But for now, this is the end of their odyssey from Syria via Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Austria, to the country in Europe that is more willing to take them than any other.

    Syrians are at the top of the pecking order. They're virtually guaranteed asylum. But if you're from Gaza, and you have been waiting for eight days for your papers, you get a little nervous, like Mohamed.

  • MOHAMED:

    Hopefully, this is going to be my new country, my new home. But I'm not sure about that.

  • MATT FREI:

    You're not sure about it?

  • MOHAMED:

    Yes, I'm not sure about right now.

  • MATT FREI:

    Until you have your papers?

  • MOHAMED:

    Yes. Hopefully.

  • MATT FREI:

    You will get them. And why did you choose Germany and not Sweden or not Britain?

  • MOHAMED:

    Actually, Germany, there's a lot of opportunities in Germany. It's a big country. Education is free. I can complete my master's. Actually, I got scholarship from Germany before I came here. But they — I could not go out from Gaza.

  • MATT FREI:

    After the refugee trauma comes the refugee bureaucracy, the anxious wait for official papers, accommodation and emergency money of 200 pounds a month per family.

    And then there's the matter of food, courtesy of the soup and sandwich brigade, all of them volunteers. Five-year-old Hassan is a study in under-aged resilience. He tries to get his hands on some soup and bread, fourth time lucky. And then this urchin of the refugee trail hands the bowl to his mother.

    By the end of the day, the food distribution is more chaotic. In fact, the Berlin authorities are so overwhelmed by the numbers, they can barely cope. So, most of the work is done by volunteers, lots of them.

    Aneta, the second from the left, is a single mother of two and currently unemployed. And Frank, opposite her, is a retired bank manager with a few languages up his sleeve.

  • FRANK:

    It's boring sitting on the couch watching TV.

  • MATT FREI:

    So, you're here helping out?

  • FRANK:

    I'm here helping out. Yes. I'm happy with this job. It's not paid, but I'm quite happy.

  • MATT FREI:

    Germany is taking in 1 percent of its population, 800,000 people, this year as asylum-seekers. That's an awful lot, isn't it? It's a huge number.

  • ANETA:

    It's a huge number. But if it comes to faces, when you see the people actually, I think we have a duty at least to help.

  • MATT FREI:

    Are you also motivated by Germany's history, maybe by some collective historical guilt about what Germany did to the rest of Europe in the past?

  • ANETA:

    Yes, I think so. I think — I was born in '63,.

  • MATT FREI:

    Like me.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • ANETA:

    In West Germany. So it's kind of — you know, you learn this at school, and you have to — it's — well, it's kind of guilt, but not only guilt. It's something — is to do something better.

  • MATT FREI:

    On to the next challenge, find a place to stay.

    As night falls, the makeshift camp empties out and there is a scramble. As a refugee, you're always rushing from one bare necessity to the next. Families, women and children, get put on buses to army barracks or schools turned refugee centers, but the men tend to be left on the street, unless they find a volunteer host like Philip Bushne and his family, one of hundreds who have put people up.

    We joined them for breakfast, their 2-year-old son Oscar, mother Suzie pregnant with number two, and their Syrian house guests, Reza and Abdu, fleeing ISIS. The Bushnes don't speak Arabic or Kurdish, and the guests don't speak English or German, so table talk is a little complicated.

  • PHILIP BUSHNE:

    Six? Twenty-five?

  • ABDU:

    Twenty-five.

  • PHILIP BUSHNE:

    Ah, 25. Reza?

  • ABDU:

    Twenty-six.

  • PHILIP BUSHNE:

    Twenty-six.

  • MATT FREI:

    So, here, we have got a little Google Translate history of the table talk. The word schwanger pops up, pregnant, because Suzie is pregnant. Schwarzer tee means black tea. Wilkommen in Deutschland means welcome to Germany.

    What do you say to those people who would say, well, actually, I don't want to have foreigners in my house; I don't know who they are?

  • PHILIP BUSHNE:

    I say do your "Star Wars" again. Like Yoda said, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. So, just drop it. There is nothing to be afraid of, seriously.

  • MATT FREI:

    The man with the tattooed neck would beg to differ. "Those who don't love Germany should leave Germany," he and his friends shout.

    This is a march organized by the tiny NPD. They scored 0.3 percent of the vote in the last federal election.

    "Whoever makes it to Germany can stay here forever. Are we living in a madhouse?" The regional leader of the National Democratic Party asks.

    The party has couched its hatred of foreigners in a mission against Islamic fanaticism, even though that's precisely what so many of the Syrian refugees are fleeing.

    On the other side of the road, the anti-fascist pro-refugee gather, slogans in English. Germany has been more welcoming and tolerant of refugees than any other country in Europe. That's why Angela Merkel is trying to shame the rest of the E.U. to share in more of the burden. This country knows more than perhaps any other about the perils of intolerance, about where all this could lead.

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