The Germans who are fleeing Merkel's refugee policies - for Hungary

Jennifer and Valentin Duraeder, a young German couple from rural Bavaria, are house-hunting in Hungary. Their motivation: to escape a country that has vowed to keep its borders open to mostly Muslim refugees.

"They get accommodation, they get food for free - the money is basically being handed to them and we Germans have to tighten our belts," says Jennifer Duraeder after viewing a small farmhouse near Hungary's picturesque Lake Balaton.

The couple is part of a "surge" of Germans seeking refuge in Hungary, almost one year after Chancellor Angela's Merkel promise of sanctuary to those fleeing war brought hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim migrants to Germany, according to public broadcaster ZDF.

"These people are fed up of Germany. They want to leave. 'It is getting continually worse,' they tell me," Ottmar Heyde, the couple's real estate agent, tells the broadcaster, adding that eight out of 10 requests he gets are from Germans critical of the influx.

Heyde says many of his clients welcome the stance of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, who has been very clear about his country's unwillingness to take in refugees.

Orban's governing right-wing Fidesz party has built a razor-wire fence on Hungary's border with Serbia to keep out mostly Muslim migrants from countries including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, citing the need to protect Europe's Christian civilization.

"The clients feel better here - calmer. They welcome Orban's politics, his fence, and his statement that he cannot feed his own people and therefore cannot take in refugees," says Heyde.

German broadcasters ZDF and Bayerischer Rundfunk cite comments from "various" real estate agents operating in the Lake Balaton region as evidence of what they call a "new phenomenon," but there are no statistics yet to support their assertion.

Pensioners Doris and Georg Kirsch were interviewed by BR shortly after signing the paperwork for their purchase of a house in a village south of Lake Balaton in May.

"What you see on TV is a couple of families and then these masses of young men," Georg Kirsch told the broadcaster, referring to footage of migrants arriving in Austria and Germany after travelling along the Western Balkan route.

"The proportion of Muslims here is just very low, 1 or 2 per cent," he said.

But the dearth of Muslims is not the only thing that is attracting Germans to western Hungary, which was part of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich until the end of World War II. Good weather, cheap house prices and a large German community add to the appeal.

Though about a quarter of a million ethnic Germans were forced to leave Hungary after the end of World War II, its German population was not subjected to the brutal persecution suffered by their counterparts in Poland, Czechoslovakia and the former Yugoslavia.

Many ethnic Germans opted for Hungarian citizenship during and after the war, making it hard to estimate their number in modern Hungary.

According to the Hungarian Statistical Office, over 62,000 people in the country declared they were German in 2001, while over 88,000 said they had an affinity with German cultural values and traditions.

Michael Mueller, a supporter of Germany's right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), told BR that he is considering a permanent move to Hungary because in his home town, "you'd be hard-pressed to hear one grammatically correct German sentence spoken."

"For me that's an indication that even the small towns are being infiltrated by foreigners," said Mueller.

The AfD - currently polling at 12 per cent, meaning it will easily clear the hurdle to enter parliament in next year's general election - has used a similar phrase to describe the refugee influx, which it says has created a national security problem.

Its leaders say that Germany is at risk of "foreign infiltration" and "Islamification," and that "Islam does not belong to Germany."

Simone Luther, a German woman who moved to Lake Balaton earlier this year, shares these fears.

"We don't know who these people are," she told BR. "I don't want to do anyone an injustice, but it is foreign and there is a sense of panic about what is yet to come ... when they start building mosques."

Last update: Fri, 12/08/2016 - 21:35
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