Obscure German Tweet Helped Spur Migrant March From Hungary
Spread by media and word-of-mouth, tweet that Germany’s doors were open emboldened hundreds of refugeesBy Andrea Thomas in Berlin, Matt Bradley in Budapest and Friedrich Geiger in Munich, WSJ
Updated Sept. 10, 2015 7:35 p.m. ET
On Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 1:30 p.m., a government agency in the southern German city of Nuremberg posted a sentence on Twitter that would change the lives of tens of thousands of desperate people.
“We are at present largely no longer enforcing Dublin procedures for Syrian citizens,” said the note, posted on the account of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
The bureaucratic tweet was the first confirmation of an online rumor that had begun to spread a day earlier: With more Syrian refugees arriving via Hungary and other European Union member states, Germany was using its prerogative to stop enforcing the bloc’s asylum rules that require all migrants to be processed in the first EU country they enter.
In other words, Germany had opened its doors.
Within hours, the news contained in the obscure German-language message spread, amplified by news media and word-of-mouth.
Tributes to German Chancellor Angela Merkel poured in from Arabic social media: Photoshopped portraits of her emblazoned with such words as “the loving mother” and “Mama Merkel” began appearing on social networks frequented by Syrians. One lyrical Facebook user called her “pure-hearted” and “a lion.” Arabic references to “Merkel” on Twitter spiked from fewer than 500 a day on Aug. 22 to 2,000 by Sept. 3, according to Topsy, a social-media analytics firm.