World champs Germany rally round refugees

Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photograph: Reuters Images.
Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photograph: Reuters Images.
Reuters Images

Berlin - Germany's World Cup-winning footballers have condemned xenophobic attacks on the thousands of foreigners pouring into their country and led calls to help the refugees amidst the ongoing crisis here.

Led by captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, a group of players appear in a video holding up signs condemning violence and calling for "respect", "help", "integration" and "fairplay" towards any refugee arriving in Germany.

Europe's biggest economy this year expects a record 800,000 asylum applications, more than any other EU country.

More than 100 migrants an hour arrived in Germany early Wednesday amid a record influx travelling on packed trains to the southern city of Munich, said police.

So far this year, German police have recorded over 125,000 illegal entries, more than double last year's total of about 57,000, with many coming from war-torn Syria, followed by Eritrea, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Serbia.

The influx has sparked a wave of attacks on asylum-seekers and violent protests against foreigners, while Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany would have "no tolerance" for "shameful and vile" violence against refugees.

The message of support from Germany's football stars, who are preparing for Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier at home against Poland, is bound to carry weight in the soccer-mad country.

"Of course, we are concerned about the issue. It's important for us to set an example"," said Germany's team manager Oliver Bierhoff with the video posted on the German Football Association's (DFB) website.

Midfielder Toni Kroos said the squad felt they had "a duty to do something against violence and xenophobia".

"My attitude is that Germany, as one of the richest countries on earth, must help," added the Real Madrid star.

Bayern Munich star Thomas Mueller said a solution to the problem must be found, but added "first of all, our duty is to help people".

A DFB delegation will visit a Christian Aid refugee housing project in the Frankfurt suburb of Egelsbach next Wednesday and meet players from "Refugee United" - a team made up of immigrants who play at the local football club.

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