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Munich Is Trying to Stop Refugees Coming to the City During Oktoberfest

We asked some beer-festival goers what they thought about that.

Oktoberfest. Photo by Dominik Schönleben

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany

Munich's yearly Oktoberfest is a cornerstone of German culture. At its simplest, it's a 16-day-long reason to wear traditional leather breeches and get obscenely plastered in the middle of the day. Which is obviously great but for the past few weeks, the question on every Munich resident's tongue has been: What the hell is going to happen when thousands of drunken Oktoberfest revellers descend on a city already trying to accommodate the arrival of thousands of Syrian refugees? Was there a plan in place to deal with this massive influx of people?


Well, it seems as if there was. As soon as the the party kicked off, there was barely a trace of the refugee crisis to be found. The city's main train station – which for weeks had been a hub for the refugees – now appeared to be a homogeneous sea of beer-bellies, lederhosen and pretzels.

Seemingly, just prior to the annual booze-fest, the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior had formed an action group to deal with this very situation. "Asylum/Oktoberfest", as it was cleverly named, was developed to make sure that the refugee's travels circumvented the city whilst the festival was in full swing. Instead of converging in Munich like they had before, the refugees were sent to a Bavarian border town. It seemed as if the government was going for the "out of sight, out of mind" approach. We wanted to know what Oktoberfest punters thought about this, so we headed down to the festival to ask.

Verena (26) and Moritz (25)

VICE: Did you run into any refugees on your way here?
Verena: No, not that I know of.

What would you say if we told you that Munich "fixed" it so that the refugees were out of the city in time for Oktoberfest?
Verena: That's a moral question. I don't want to pass judgement on that right now because I have no idea what sort of issues are involved, but it definitely leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

How does it feel to party here after hearing that?
Moritz: I know things are tough for the refugees, but I don't see why we shouldn't party because of it.


Scott (32) and Liam (30)

VICE: Did you run into any refugees on your way here?
Scott: Yeah. When we were on our way here, police stormed onto our train and removed about 50 refugees. Even the ones who had valid tickets. No idea what that was about. But they were definitely on the way to Munich Central Station.

What do you think about that?
Scott: I love you, mom. [laughs]

Liam: Idiot. These people are desperate and need help. I don't know how we are supposed to integrate all of them but Western governments have to take care of them.

Scott: Sorry, I was kidding. I don't really know what I'm supposed to think about it all. In general, I think that if they had a valid ticket for the train, they should've been allowed to travel to Munich. If they didn't, then they shouldn't.

How does it feel to be here after witnessing that?
Scott: Honestly? As bad as it sounds, I'm not really thinking about it. We're at Oktoberfest. I'm thinking about beer, girls and more beer. But, I suppose when you get home and see the news, you realise how bad things are for others.

Liam: I'm just thankful that I'm so lucky. The refugee crisis doesn't necessarily affect my life but it does affect the way I think. It reminds me of just how good we have it.

Nicola (27)

VICE: What do you have to say about the current refugee crisis.
Nicola: I think what's happening here is horrible. With Germany's history, I can't believe that there are people doing things like setting hostels full of refugees on fire. It's so sad. These people are fleeing war, we should be helping them.


What do you think about the fact that Munich got rid of the refugees before Oktoberfest?
Well, it isn't surprising that they try to make Oktoberfest run as smoothly as possible. I had heard they would use the festival tents for refugees when the party's over but apparently that's off the table now. It's a shame. There's everything you could ever need here. Tents, toilets, etc. They could have easily used this stuff to help people.

Helmut (73)

VICE: How would you evaluate the current situation in Bavaria?
Helmut: I agree with Mayor Dieter Reiter. He said that we were able to absorb all of the Yugoslavian refugees in the 1990s and we would be able to do it again now. But we will reach the limit at some point.

How do you feel about the fact that so few refugees are arriving in Munich now?
Well, I think the way they arranged it is good. Otherwise there would have been chaos.

What bothers you most about the current situation?
That the politicians slept through this catastrophe. They should've grasped the problem at its root. The fact is that nobody leaves their homeland for fun. We have to make sure there's peace and order in the countries that these refugees come from. Then they'll leave. At the end of the day, everyone wants to go back to their homeland.

Aidan (27)

VICE: Did you run into any refugees on your way here?
Aidan: No, none.

That's because the government made sure of it. What do you think of that?
No idea. I'm hungover.


What do you think about people fleeing war in their homeland?
No idea. They definitely need help. But I have no idea who should be responsible for helping them

And how does it feel to party here now?
No idea. I can't answer that. If a refugee was at my front door, I'd help him.

Cornelia (50)

VICE: What do you make of the current refugee situation?
Cornelia: It scares me. There are too many of them for me, no question. I am scared of the masses trying to get here.

What scares you about it?
We can't control it much longer. I have two young children attending school in Lenggries, where they're turning a gymnasium into a home for refugees. They told my kids that if they helped, it would be reflected positively on their report cards. I got incredibly angry about that. If they want to help, they should help. But it doesn't belong on their report card. You can't pressure them like that. That isn't okay. We'll gladly help, but it shouldn't be obligatory.

WATCH: Europe or Die

I also think it's really important that people are able to voice their opinion. Right now, everyone is expected just to smile and say that everything is OK. But that isn't the case. We fear for the future. We can hardly pay rent, even without refugees. Here in Munich you pay £400 for a shoebox apartment. How are our kids supposed to finance that? They can't. So that's why I'm scared.

Well I do feel sorry for them, I do. And the fact that they want to get out of those countries, I get that. I would probably want the same, but we can't help all of them. We just can't.


Sarkvat (27)

VICE: What do you think about the current situation?
Sarkvat: Obviously the situation in Syria and Iraq, where I'm from, is catastrophic. It's not like it used to be. Of course Germany is helping but hopefully they can do a bit more. All the refugees want to live in Germany, which is understandable. Germany is beautiful, more beautiful than any other country.

How do you think Germany should deal with the refugees arriving?
Germany has to decide that but it would be nice if they took a lot in. I can understand these people. I would also like it if my entire family was here.

How do you feel about partying here whilst others are fleeing?
It's depressing, obviously.


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