German politicians have been mocked for suggesting that desperate refugees arriving in Munich could disrupt Oktoberfest celebrations, and may find drunk people “odd”, as 6million festivalgoers descend on the city.
Some 7.5million litres of beer are expected to be consumed by revellers at the two-week festival in Munich starting on Saturday, which first took place 182 years ago.
This year, however, officials have raised eyebrows with their attempts to reassure festival-goers that refugees who have fled bloody conflicts in the Middle East may be bothered by the event.
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Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said that the new arrivals were likely to encounter crowds of violent drunks returning from the festival, which begins on Saturday.
“Refugees from Muslim countries may not be used to seeing extremely drunk people in public,” Herrmann said. “It might seem a bit odd to some of them, if I may say so, but this is the reality.”
State premier Horst Seehofer was earlier criticised on social media for suggesting that he urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel to impose border controls in the country in the face of a humanitarian crisis, in order to ensure Oktoberfest can continue as normal.
His comments sparked a new hashtag #Oktoberfestung, or October fortress, on Twitter.
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On Sunday, Germany responded to the on-going refugee crisis by imposing new checks at its borders, that have since led to a backlog of people waiting in Austria to cross into the country.
The measures meant that around 80 percent of the scheduled trains towards Munich, the main route into Germany, were cancelled on Tuesday, according to OeBB national rail company staff in Salzburg.
The move has prompted other EU countries on the continent to consider their own border measures in the face of the Schengen agreement which allows for free movement.
A spokesman for Austria’s interior ministry said it would introduce similar controls at 10pm (BST) on Tuesday.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content