HUNDREDS of migrants protested at Budapest’s main train station yesterday after Hungary suspended all rail traffic and cleared the terminus of those trying to board trains to Austria and Germany.
Chaos enveloped Keleti train station, where thousands of migrants fleeing strife in the Middle East and Asia have left by rail in the past few days headed for the two rich European Union countries. Rail tickets have become more popular after 71 migrants apparently suffocated last week in a Hungarian lorry found abandoned on an Austrian motorway.
EU states this year have been overwhelmed by a torrent of migrants fleeing violence and poverty, with more than 332,000 arriving so far, and have disagreed strongly on how to handle the crisis. Germany has taken on far more migrants than others in the 28-nation bloc, while the front-line border nations of Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary have seen police clash with migrants, scuffles between migrants and deaths at sea as thousands daily cross the Mediterranean in unseaworthy smugglers’ boats.
Scuffles broke out yesterday in Budapest as hundreds of migrants pushed toward the metal gates where a train was due to leave for Vienna and Munich and were blocked by police.
Officials announced over station loudspeakers that all trains would be stopped from leaving indefinitely. Migrants’ papers were checked, and those with tickets but no EU visas were ushered out of the station. Outside, hundreds who had spent heavily on the tickets angrily chanted “Germany” and “UN”.
Mohammed, a 24-year-old economist from the Syrian city of Aleppo, said the chaos was the worst he has seen since leaving Syria. He had bought a ticket to Munich for €200 (£148) after Hungarian police told him on Monday night they would be allowed to leave. But despite showing a valid Syrian passport yesterday to police guarding the platform, he was turned away for not having a German visa.
“This is crazy,” said Baba Mujhse, a Egyptian-Hungarian volunteer at Keleti, as he carried a boy separated from his family in the uproar. “This [travel ban] is not a solution to anything.”
Hours later, train service was restored for passengers with valid travel documents but not the migrants.
The interior ministry said more than 156,000 “illegal migrants” had entered Hungary as of yesterday, with around 142,000 requesting asylum, including 45,000 Syrians.
Hungary’s train crackdown appeared prompted in part by pressure from other EU nations trying to cope with the influx. Police in Vienna said yesterday 3,650 migrants arrived on Monday from Hungary at the city’s Westbahnhof station, with most continuing toward Germany.
“Allowing them to simply board in Budapest … and watching as they are taken to the neighbour [Austria] – that’s not politics,” Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said.
Reacting to the criticism, Hungary announced that Prime Minister Viktor Orban will discuss the migrant crisis tomorrow in Brussels with EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, EU Council president Donald Tusk, and European Parliament president Martin Schulz.