German politician sends bus with refugees to Angela Merkel
A bus carrying 31 Syrian refugees arrived in Berlin after a district councillor in Bavaria followed up on his pledge to German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he would send them her way if his district could not accommodate them.
The act came amid ongoing concerns about how Germany will deal with the 1.1 million asylum-seekers that arrived in the country last year.
Peter Dreier, a Landshut district councillor, said he wanted to "send a sign that refugee policy cannot continue like this".
Mr Dreier said he had talked with Merkel on the phone last year. He said he warned her that Landshut was reaching its capacity for housing asylum-seekers and told her he would put refugees on buses to Berlin if his district could no longer handle the influx.
The bus arrived in front of Mrs Merkel's chancellery in the centre of Berlin. Several police officers led the 31 refugees from their bus directly into another bus waiting nearby.
German news reports said the refugees would be taken to different shelters in the city where they could spend the night.
It was reported that the migrants did not know the trip had been organised as a stunt to criticise Mrs Merkel's refugee policy and were upset to find out they had been used to make a political point to the federal government.
Landshut spokesman Elmar Stoettner told The Associated Press that all 31 refugees on the bus had been granted asylum in Germany and volunteered to participate in the bus trip.
Mr Dreier said in a statement that the 66 migrant homes in his district are full and that in addition to the asylum-seekers, about 450 people who have received asylum are also still living there because they cannot find apartments.
Most migrants who arrive in Germany first set foot in Bavaria, and cities and communities there, as well as elsewhere across the country, have been struggling for months to provide accommodation.
Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said that the city of Berlin had agreed to offer accommodation for the refugees for their first night in the city.
Seibert said that while the government is aware of the fact that the high number of refugees is a challenge for the communities, it also supports them financially in handling the refugee crisis.
The federal government has also pledged to provide more than one billion euros (£754 million) annually until 2019 for social housing, Seibert pointed out.