BUDAPEST, Hungary – Hungary suspended all traffic from its main rail terminal Tuesday and cleared the station of hundreds of migrants trying to board trains for Austria and Germany – the hoped-for end destinations in their flight from Mideast turmoil.
Migrants chanting “freedom, freedom,” congregated outside the station after being pushed out from the station building, joining hundreds more in what has become a transit zone and place of refuge for those fleeing Syria’s war and other Mideast hotspots.
Police acted shortly after authorities announced over station loudspeakers that all trains would be stopped from leaving the station for an indefinite period of time Hundreds of passengers with travel documents and tickets remained in the cavernous station, some staring at information boards still showing arrival and departure times
Scuffles broke out earlier in the morning among some of the hundreds of migrants as they pushed toward metal gates at the platform where a train was scheduled to leave for Vienna and Munich, and were blocked by police. Several said they spent hundreds of euros for tickets after police told them they would be allowed free passage.
The closure of the station appeared prompted in part by pressure from other EU countries trying to cope with the influx from Hungary. Police in Vienna said Tuesday that 3,650 migrants arrived from Hungary Monday at the city’s Westbahnhof station, with most continuing on toward Germany.
“Allowing them to simply board in Budapest … and watching as they are taken to the neighbour (Austria) – that’s not politics,” said Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, in an interview with state broadcaster ORF.
While critical of Hungary, Austrian authorities also acknowledged they were overwhelmed by the thousands who arrived by rail Monday evening. Police said they did not have the manpower to carry out effective controls, which normally would include turning back to Hungary those without proper travel documents who do not ask for asylum in Austria.
But in their search for human traffickers, they re-imposed controls begun Monday at some of the main road border crossings into Austria from Hungary. Hungary’s Utinform agency, which provides motorists with traffic news, said that vehicles entering Austria at the Hegyeshalom crossing were backed up for about 6 kilometres (about 3 1/2 miles.)
Associated Press writer George Jahn contributed from Vienna