A group of 51 asylum seekers housed in the Bavarian district of Landshut were being sent to Berlin to Chancellor Angela Merkel, the district office said on Thursday.
The migrants volunteering for the trip were recognized refugees, which meant they could live anywhere in Germany, Landhut's chief administrator Peter Dreier said. Neither the authorities in Landshut nor the refugees were paying for the trip, which was being paid by private sponsors in and around the area.
Landshut has 66 decentralized shelters - including private homes and hotels - for accommodating migrants. Authorities have also organized one emergency hall and several smaller homes for underage asylum seekers.
The refugees being taken to Berlin were living in state shelters because they would otherwise be homeless in Landshut, where renting out a flat is very expensive, the district office said in a statement.
Loss of trust
Dreier justified his step saying Germany's refugee policy would have to change and things could not go on as they were until now. He said he was going to Berlin with the refugees to personally register his protest with the chancellor.
"There is no end to the wave of refugees," Dreier said. There was no decent accommodation for refugees and no new homes were being built,"as far as he could see." On the contrary, many people had lost their trust in the state and its functioning even before the events in Cologne, Dreier complained, referring to widespread incidents of sexual assaults by foreigners in Cologne on New Year's Eve.
"If we do not take the problems and hardships of our residents seriously, the social and inner peace of our country will be at stake," Dreier's official statement said. The officer had already informed Chancellor Angela Merkel of his plans in October last year. In her reply, Merkel said, "If you send the buses to me, I will have to send them back to Greece and the refugees will walk back to you," Dreier told German newspaper, "Die Welt."
Reactions on social media
#Merkelbus began trending on Twitter soon after the news was published on German media. This user criticized Dreier's move, saying he was behaving like a "small child."
This user said the initiative was only to attract media attention and that Dreier would have to bring them all back home the same day.
Some thought the chancellor herself could use the bus because she would be soon out of office.
And users like this one tried to pacify everyone else, saying the refugees weren't going to Berlin to take the chancellor's place: