2 Sep 2015

Migrant crisis: Hungary bars rail travel

5:34 am on 2 September 2015

Hundreds of migrants demonstrated outside Budapest's main railway station closed by Hungarian authorities to prevent them travelling on to Germany.

Migrants protest at the Eastern (Keleti) railway station of Budapest on September 1, 2015, after the railway station has been evacuated by local police.

Migrants protest at being blocked from the Budapest rail station, from where they planned to travel towards Austria and Germany. Photo: AFP

Around 1000 people waved tickets, clapping, booing and hissing, and shouting "Germany! Germany!" outside Budapest's eastern railway terminus. Later they sat down, staring at a police blockade erected at the entrance.

Hungarian authorities closed the train station altogether, then reopened it but barred entry to the migrants. About 100 police in helmets and wielding batons guarded the station. Dozens of migrants who were inside were forced out.

The previous day, Hungary and Austria had let trainloads of undocumented migrants leave for Germany, a violation of EU rules they now have little power to enforce.

Marah, a 20 year-old woman from Aleppo, Syria, said her family had bought six tickets for a train to Vienna.

"They should find a solution," she told Reuters. "We are thousands here, where should we go?"

Migrants are seen outside the Eastern (Keleti) railway station in Budapest on September 1, 2015. Hungarian authorities closed the station earlier.

Photo: AFP

The arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants has confounded Europe, which has eliminated border controls for travel between 26 countries of its Schengen area but requires those seeking asylum to remain in the country where they first arrive until their applications are processed.

The vast majority of refugees fleeing violence, and other migrants escaping poverty, first arrive on Europe's southern and eastern edges but are determined to press on and seek asylum in countries further north and west.

Hungary is on a major overland transit route from the Middle East and Africa through Greece and the Balkans to Germany. More than 140,000 people have crossed into Hungary from Serbia this year alone.

European leaders want the EU to do more to organise the unprecedented influx.

Migrants wait on a platform of the Eastern (Keleti) railway station of Budapest behind of a line of the local police on August 31, 2015, as the last train left in direction of Austria and Germany.

Hungarian authorities closed the train station, then reopened it but barred entry to migrants. Photo: AFP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said refugees with valid asylum claims should be distributed among EU countries according to their capacity to host them.

"For those refugees who are being persecuted or have fled war, there should be a fair distribution in Europe based on the economic strength, productivity and size of each country," she told a joint news conference in Berlin with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

For Hungary, the main entry point for those arriving in the EU over land across the Balkans, the crisis has prompted the government to reinforce the border with a razor wire fence and deploy thousands of extra police.

Faced with the enormous pressure of thousands upon thousands of migrants arriving in Budapest, Hungary let them board westbound trains on Monday before unexpectedly shuttering the train station again on Tuesday morning.

Migrants and refugees crowd the platforms at the Keleti (eastern) railway station in Budapest on September 1, 2015. Keleti, the biggest Hungarian railway station was closed today as police evacuated people trying to get on trains bound for Germany. AFP

Photo: AFP

The risks for migrants travelling through Europe were highlighted last week by the deaths of 71 people found in a lorry that had travelled to Austria from Budapest.

Most of the dead were thought to be Syrians.

Hundreds more people drowned in the Mediterranean last week while trying to reach Europe from Libya.

- Reuters / BBC

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