Migrants on Hungarian train taken to refugee camp

Migrants storming onto a train at the Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary, yesterday
after the station was reopened.
Migrants storming onto a train at the Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary, yesterday after the station was reopened. PHOTO: REUTERS

Train bound for towns near Austrian border stopped near camp instead

BUDAPEST • A Hungarian train bound for towns near the Austrian border with several hundred migrants on board was stopped near one of the country's four main refugee camps and the migrants were taken off, state news agency MTI reported.

The train stopped at Bicske, around 40km west of Budapest, and the police removed hundreds of migrants on board and directed them onto buses to take them to the nearby camp.

Migrants were seen throwing themselves onto train tracks and fleeing from the police trying to take them to the camp as the authorities sought to end a stand-off that has become symbolic of a European asylum system brought to its breaking point.

The train, which left the main Keleti station just before noon yesterday was due to split, with three carriages due to travel to Szombathely and the rest to Sopron, both near Hungary's western border with Austria.

A second train headed for Gyor, also near the Austrian border, also left Keleti with around 100 migrants on board - as well as dozens of police officers wearing riot helmets. There were around 1,000 migrants left on the platform and on the main concourse.

On Tuesday, the Hungarian authorities stopped migrants taking trains to Austria and Germany after thousands travelled to these countries on Monday.

They closed Budapest's Keleti station to migrants, leaving some 2,000 people stranded and leading to a tense stand-off with demonstrations and scuffles.

Then, early yesterday, the station was fully reopened and hundreds of people stormed inside, cramming into trains.

Hungarian Railways said, however, that there would be no trains going to western Europe.

"I think this was a trick by the government, the police and the train company. The train looked like it was going to Germany," said Mr Marton Bisztrai, a volunteer at Keleti station.

"They just want to get people the hell out of here and into camps. I think this was a very cynical trick."

Hungary has emerged as a flash point as the primary entry point for those travelling overland across the Balkans.

Its right-wing government is among the continent's most outspoken voices against allowing mass immigration.

As more desperate scenes unfolded yesterday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Hungary was simply following the rules.

"The problem is not a European problem. The problem is a German problem," he said.

"Nobody would like to stay in Hungary, neither in Slovakia, nor Poland, nor Estonia. All of them would like to go to Germany. Our job is only to register them.

"So if the German Chancellor insists that nobody can leave Hungary without registration towards Germany, we will register them. It's a must."

In an opinion piece for Germany's Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung, Mr Orban, who was in Brussels for talks with European leaders, said Hungarians and Europeans were "full of fear because they see that the European leaders... are not able to control the situation".

He charged that it was "irresponsible" of European politicians "to give migrants hope for a better life and to encourage them to leave everything behind to risk their lives by leaving for Europe".

In Budapest, lawmakers debated changes to entry laws that the right-wing government said would close the country to migrants as of Sept 15.

European Union foreign ministers will gather today for a two-day informal meeting in Luxembourg, where Italy, France and Germany are expected to seek an overhaul of laws on the right of asylum and a fairer distribution of migrants throughout the bloc to smooth the passage for migrants escaping poverty and war in the Middle East and Africa.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2015, with the headline 'Migrants on Hungarian train taken to refugee camp'. Print Edition | Subscribe