'Welcome to my country': a German bus driver's speech brought tears, cheers

A German bus driver caused passengers – both German and foreign – to burst into applause after he paused to welcome asylum seekers.

Stefanie Loos/Reuters
A migrant boy waits at his parents' suitcase as they leave the Berlin State Office for Health and Social Affairs with other newly arrived refugees who waited all day to apply for asylum in Berlin, August 10, 2015

As Europe struggles to deal with an unprecedented number of immigrants crossing the Mediterranean, a German bus driver offered an unexpectedly warm welcome to asylum seekers on his bus.

Sven Latteyer showed compassion on the 15 young foreigners – some from Africa – who boarded his bus in Erlangen in Bavaria, when he announced over a loudspeaker in English,

“Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, from all over the world in this bus – I want to say something. I want to say welcome. Welcome to Germany, welcome to my country. Have a nice day.”

“The speech was greeted with stunned looks followed by laughter and applause, "including from the Germans," one passenger said. "One of the African lads wiped a tear from his eye," the BBC reports.

As the story spread, the bus driver's welcome was applauded on Twitter too. 

Mr. Latteyer, 42, told  the local Nuernberger Nachrichten paper, that he felt moved to make the speech by the experience of his brother-in-law from Kosovo, who fled the Balkan crisis in the 1990s to make a better life in Germany, and his grandfather, who was wounded in World War II.

Germany is grappling with a record number of refugees. This year, the government says it expects 400,000 asylum applications by the end of 2015 – more than double the amount it received in 2014. According to Reuters, the figure includes economic refugees from the Balkans as well as migrants fleeing conflict in Africa and the Middle East.

Recently The Christian Science Monitor reported that Germany needs the immigrants:

the influx has stirred anti-immigrant sentiment – and violence – among those Germans troubled by the prospect of having to compete with refugees for state resources. Host towns across the country, from poorer eastern states to the more prosperous south, are seeing a flare-up of attacks against asylum seekers, their families, and the shelters that house them.

But ironically, the flood of refugees comes just as Germany could most use them – to rejuvenate a graying workforce that is set to shrink by 6 million over the next 15 years and by 20 million in the next 35, according to the German Federal Statistics Office. But balancing the need to offset population decline and respecting local concerns about culture, that could empower far-right elements if ignored, won't be easy.

In the wake of Germany's refugee crisis, and cases of far-right wing sentiments, however, many Germans continue to display a different spirit. For instance in the border town of Bavaria, Mayor Martin Birner has been trying to build bridges between his constituents and those seeking a haven from war.

The Monitor reported last month, “Since April, the town and surrounding area have taken in some 170 asylum seekers, from countries including Ukraine, Iraq, Albania, and Syria. It wasn't an idea that was immediately popular with residents, but Mr. Birner worked to convince them that they should welcome, instead of fear, refugees fleeing from violence and repression.”

According to the latest data, Germany admits far more immigrants than any other country. In 2014, Germany received six times the number of asylum seeker applicants than Britain, and twice as many as any other country in Europe, the Guardian reported.

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