Migrants storm Budapest train ‘heading to Germany’

Budapest, September 3

Hundreds of migrants stormed Budapest’s main international rail station after police reopened it today, in an escalating refugee crisis seared into European hearts by horrifying pictures of a drowned Syrian toddler.

Chaos erupted as crowds of people burst into the flashpoint station and rushed towards a standing train, with Hungarian police seemingly absent following a two-day standoff with migrants trying to head to Germany and Austria.

The scenes of confusion in a deeply divided European Union came as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban held urgent talks in Brussels on dealing with the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

“There is a divide... between the east and the west of the EU,” EU President Donald Tusk said ahead of the meeting with Orban.

“Some member states are thinking about containing the wave of migration, symbolised by the Hungarian (border) fence. Others want solidarity in advocating a so-called obligatory basis for (refugee) quotas” to re-distribute refugees.

Hungary allowed several thousand to board trains bound for Austria and Germany on Monday, but the following day the station was closed to anyone without an EU passport or a valid visa.

The move left around 2,000 men, women and children stranded around the station or in a makeshift refugee camp beneath the station and scuffles broke out between police and migrants on Tuesday.

Today, hundreds tried to get on board one train, pushing, shoving and fighting with each other to get on, after the station reopened. A public announcement said however that no trains for western Europe would be leaving “for an indefinite period”.

“I think this was a trick by the government, the  police and the train company. The train looked like it was going to  Germany,” Marton Bisztrai, a volunteer at Keleti station, told AFP.  “They just want to get people the hell out of here and into camps. I  think this was a very cynical trick.”

The situation is also becoming increasingly desperate on Europe’s sea borders after a dramatic spike in the numbers of migrants leaving Turkey by sea for Greece over the past week, among them the tiny toddler whose death has caused such outrage.

Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch’s director of emergencies, said the Syrian boy and others who drowned with him were “the latest victims of Europe’s paltry response in the face of a growing crisis.”

EU leaders cannot agree on how to redistribute refugees around the bloc, with rules that migrants must apply for asylum in the first country that they land in adding to the disagreements. EU ministers will hold a special meeting in Brussels on September 14 on the crisis.

Taken off near refugee camp

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 taken off, state news agency MTI reported.

The train stopped at Bicske, around 40 km west of Budapest, and police took the migrants off and directed them on to buses to take them to the nearby camp, MTI reported from the scene.

AFP estimated there were around 200-300 migrants on board. The train, which left the main Keleti station at 11:20am (0920 GMT) 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.

The section going to Sopron was packed with people standing in the corridors. A second train headed for Gyor, also near the Austrian border, also left Keleti with around 100 migrants on board -- as well as several dozen police wearing riot helmets, an AFP reporter said. There were around 1,000 migrants on the platform and on the main concourse.