Budapest train migrants stand firm in face-off with police
Several thousand migrants remained stranded at the main railway station in the Hungarian capital Budapest Friday, while another 500 refused to get off a train halted in the town of Bicske a day earlier.
The migrants, many of them Syrian refugees, had boarded the train in Budapest on Thursday, believing it would take them to the Austrian border and eventually western Europe.
Many were hoping to reach Germany, where the government recently eased asylum restrictions for Syrians.
Instead, mayhem ensued when the train stopped at the small station of Bicske, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the Hungarian capital, and security forces tried to move the passengers to a refugee camp.
A police spokesperson Laszlo Balazs told reporters Friday the passengers were engaging in “passive resistance” and refusing to cooperate with the police.
The stand-off came as Hungarian lawmakers prepared to debate tough new anti-immigration measures on Friday afternoon, including criminalising illegal border crossing and vandalism to the new anti-immigrant razor-wire fence erected along the border with Serbia.
In Budapest, an estimated 2,000 continued to shelter in a concourse underneath Keleti station on Friday.
“People are starting to be more nervous and angry. They are loosing money day by day… So the situation will become more complicated and we’ll see some more problems,” Abdel Aziz from Syria told AFP.
Hungary’s handling of the migrants, who have been stuck for days, sometimes even weeks, in makeshift camps at the station, has caused confusion and anger.
After unexpectedly allowing several thousand board trains for Austria and Germany on Monday, authorities then blockaded Keleti station again on Tuesday for 48 hours.
On Thursday, the police suddenly reopened the station to migrants but Hungarian Railways promptly announced it was suspending train services to western Europe “for security reasons”.
Many migrants then boarded trains apparently headed for the towns of Sopron, Szombathely and Gyor, close to the Austrian border instead.
But hundreds were taken off trains by police and taken to refugee camps in Vamosszabadi, 110 kilometres west of Budapest, and in Bicske.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday defended his handling of the migrant crisis, saying: “The problem is not a European problem, the problem is a German problem”.