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Friday, March 18, 2016

For Refugees In Small German Village, Warm Welcome Follows Hostile Reception

Ramzi, 13, from Lebanon tries out his new bicycle as volunteers and other newly arrived residents in Clausnitz look on. (Marc Lalonde)

Ramzi, 13, from Lebanon tries out his new bicycle as volunteers and other newly arrived residents in Clausnitz look on. (Marc Lalonde)

Germany is the second most popular migrant destination, behind the U.S. In 2005, it passed a new law claiming for the first time that Germany is an “immigration country,” but the migrant crisis is testing that.

Luai, 15, from Lebanon, carries a box of donations. (Marc Lalonde)

Luai, 15, from Lebanon, carries a box of donations. (Marc Lalonde)

In February, a video of angry protesters surrounding a bus filled with newly arrived refugees in the small German town of Clausnitz went viral.

It attracted the attention of Marc Lalonde, a Canadian transplant living in the city of Dresden, and inspired him to organize a mini relief effort on Facebook.

“I decided because I know the area I had to do something,” he told Here & Now’s Robin Young.

His group, Helfergruppe Clausnitz, has helped the seven migrant families, as well as the residents of Clausnitz, many of whom had never seen a foreigner before.

“We started collecting donations, for example, winter clothing. They also needed cups and plates and knives,” said Lalonde. His group also managed to provide the newly arrived refugees bicycles, cable television and Internet access, to connect with family members back home.

“We basically just wanted to show them that the people in front of the bus do not represent all of Saxony, all of Clausnitz, all of Germany,” he said.

A group of volunteers and refugees stand outside their new residence – one of three apartment buildings housing refugee families in Clausnitz. (Marc Lalonde)

A group of volunteers and refugees stand outside their new residence – one of three apartment buildings housing refugee families in Clausnitz. (Marc Lalonde)

Bicycles donated by volunteers from Helfergruppe Clausnitz for the newly arrived Clausnitz refugees. (Marc Lalonde)

Bicycles donated by volunteers from Helfergruppe Clausnitz for the newly arrived Clausnitz refugees. (Marc Lalonde)

Watch the video of the anti-migrant protesters in Clausnitz

Guest

  • Marc Lalonde, resident of Dresden, Germany, who organized an effort to welcome refugees. He is the former president of the Dresden municipal foreigners council, former coordinator of the Saxon state foreigners council and former vice-president of the German national foreigners council.

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