Refugee Arrivals To German Town Delayed After Shelter Is Destroyed

Refugee Arrivals To German Town Delayed After Shelter Is Destroyed

7:58am May 13, 2015

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Now, many refugees are being directed to shelter far from the Mediterranean shore. Late last year, for example, some were supposed to go to a village in Germany. The mayor describes Vorra, Germany like a postcard - a town surrounded by rich, green Bavarian hills and fields.

MAYOR VOLKER HERZOG: It's a little town, Vorra. It's a little valley - a river here. Everything is green, and the sun is shining. It's nice to live here.

INSKEEP: Mayor Volker - Mayor Volker Herzog is the mayor of this town of 1,800. Last year, several vacant houses were being prepared to take in about 60 refugees. They were being prepared. The mayor did not expect any trouble.

HERZOG: Because you must know the towns here in our valley, they know people from other countries. We have lots of tourists. And in the '90s, also the people from Eastern Europe, the refugees came here.

INSKEEP: Oh, sure, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. OK.

HERZOG: Yes, from the Soviet Union, Poland and also sometime later from Vietnam, the boat people.

INSKEEP: Vietnamese boat people came to your little town?

HERZOG: Yes, in - well, it was in 1991, '92. We have lot of refugees here.

INSKEEP: Have people been generally welcoming?

HERZOG: Yes, the people here in Vorra, it's not that they don't like other people. They a little bit afraid that's clear. It's something new. But it's not that they are nationalistic sentiments. That's not the truth.

INSKEEP: But something happened in your community in December as preparations were being made to renovate those old buildings to receive the 60 refugees. What happened?

HERZOG: The buildings were set on fire. We don't know. The police don't know who has done this, and that's very bad.

INSKEEP: How severe was the damage?

HERZOG: The houses were destroyed. You must renovate them from the ground up.

INSKEEP: How has the town responded to that act?

HERZOG: The people also were speechless because no one thought that this could happen.

INSKEEP: So the arrival of the refugees has been delayed by the need to start construction all over again. Is that correct?

HERZOG: Yes. I think end of the year 2015, the buildings are renovated again and so the refugees or the migrants could come here to Vorra.

INSKEEP: Are you determined that your town will welcome them?

HERZOG: Yes. I also think because there's a circle of citizens. They come together every two weeks. And they care about the refugees in the other town here in the community, and they are also preparing to welcome the refugees when they come to Vorra.

INSKEEP: As a German, what do you feel is Germany's responsibility in this crisis?

HERZOG: Germany is a rich country, and I think we must help the refugees. We have the possibilities here in Germany to help them, and so we must do it.

INSKEEP: Mayor Herzog, thanks very much.

HERZOG: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Volker Herzog, the mayor of Vorra, Germany. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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