Police wall blocks refugees in Budapest for second day

Protests erupt among thousands of refugees trapped outside Budapest station as authorities continue to block travel.

Hundreds of refugees stranded outside Budapest’s main international railway station have protested for two days as authorities block them from travelling to other countries.

On Wednesday, the refugees shouted “freedom, freedom” and called to be let onto trains as Hungarian authorities said for a second day that they would prevent anyone without a valid visa from entering the station.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from outside the Keleti station, described the atmosphere there as “very tense right now” and that the refugees were stuck in limbo.

“A lot of humanitarian workers are saying the government is deliberately letting his happen. They don’t want to be here, they want to move on. They can’t [use] the rail system and Hungary doesn’t want them,” our correspondent said.

Protesting refugees from Afghanistan and Syria hold up a child wrapped in blankets as a reminder of the horrors they have fled while demonstrating in Budapest [Reuters]
Protesting refugees from Afghanistan and Syria hold up a child wrapped in blankets as a reminder of the horrors they have fled while demonstrating in Budapest [Reuters]

A spokesperson for the Hungarian government, meanwhile, reiterated that: “In the territory of the EU, illegal migrants can travel onwards only with valid documents and observing EU rules.

“A train ticket does not overwrite EU rules.”

By Wednesday morning, the AP news agency reported that the number of refugees gathered outside Keleti station had swollen to 3,000, as police bolstered their numbers with citizen patrols in an attempt to keep order.

Volunteers usually accustomed to providing food, clothing and medical assistance to a few hundred refugees at a time were struggling with large numbers of people crammed outside the station’s main entrance.

Our correspondent said the dilemma the refugees faced was “conveyed more by the sight of exhausted families who had bought their tickets only to be turned away”. 

A 13-year-old boy, who escaped the Syrian city of Deraa with his sister, told Al Jazeera that “the police don’t like the Syrians in Serbia, in Hungary, in Macedonia, in Greece”.

“Please help the Syrians. You just stop the war, we won’t want to go to Europe. Just stop the war in Syria,” he said.

On Tuesday, hundreds of people demanding to travel to Germany faced off with police outside the station, as new figures highlighted the unprecedented scale of Europe’s refugee crisis.


Police cleared and briefly closed the station on Tuesday and later reopened it only to tourists and residents, after thousands of refugees, many of them without visas, were unexpectedly allowed to board trains for Germany and Austria on Monday. 

Why Al Jazeera will not say Mediterranean ‘migrants’

This saw the highest number of refugees entering Austria in a single day this year, with police saying 3,650 arrived in Vienna by train on Monday.

Many continued on to Germany, which last week eased asylum restrictions for Syrian refugees.

German police said a record 3,500 asylum seekers had turned up in Bavaria on Tuesday. Sweden also said the number of asylum requests there were nearing historic levels.

Inside Story – Refugees and Europe’s dilemma

The latest flashpoint in Hungary, one of several recent standoffs at borders and transport hubs across the continent, came as the IOM published new figures revealing the scale of Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

Out of the 350,000 arrivals by sea so far this year, 234,770 alone were in Greece, the figures showed.

That figure by itself is more than the entire European total for all of 2014.

The EU has scheduled emergency talks on the issue on September 14.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies