Chaos on Hungarian Railways as Europe Grapples with Refugee Crisis
Migrants ordered off train just west of Budapest near 'migration reception center'
According to an EU rule known as the Dublin Regulation, undocumented migrants are theoretically barred from travel across the European Union and are required to seek asylum in the first EU member state they reach. This rule has been applied by the government in Hungary—except for a brief period on Monday when it allowed people to board trains bound for Germany and Austria—to migrants wishing to travel on to Germany or Sweden from Hungary.
The Associated Press reports that conditions at the station "have grown increasingly squalid despite the efforts of volunteers distributing water, food, medicine and disinfectants."
On Thursday morning, thousands of desperate refugees attempted to push their way into the station, after police received an order to withdraw from their positions guarding the building.
"In a swirl of confusion," according to the AP, "the migrants piled into trains at the Keleti station...despite announcements that there was no service to Western Europe."
Sky News reports: "The migrants pushed into the carriages and tried to cram their children through open windows."
But Hungary's railway company said it had suspended all direct trains from the Hungarian capital to western destinations "in the interests of railway transport security."
Police cleared roughly 900 refugees from one train, many of whom sat down on the platforms to wait.
"We want to go to Germany but that train in the station, maybe it goes nowhere. We heard it may go to a camp. So we will stay out here and wait," 17-year-old Ysra Mardini, from the Syrian capital of Damascus, told Reuters.
Another train, believed to be bound for the town of Sopron near the Austrian border, did leave the station carrying hundreds of migrants. But the train reportedly stopped just west of Budapest in the town of Bicske, where Hungary has a "migration reception center," and police ordered the migrants off.
Police cleared one carriage, while five more stood at the station in the heat. Fearing detention, some migrants banged on windows chanting "No camp! No camp!"
One group pushed back dozens of riot police guarding a stairwell to fight their way back on board. One family—a man, his wife and their toddler—made their way along the track next to the train and lay down in protest. It took a dozen riot police wrestling with the man to get them up again.
The Guardian adds:
Other migrants caught in the train station underpass pushed back dozens of riot police blocking the top of the stairs to fight their way back on board the train, which remained stationary in high temperatures. Passengers reportedly had no access to water.
Sky News also reports that Hungarian police have declared the area an "operation zone" and have told all media there to leave. They are using batons to push reporters out of the station.
Meanwhile, as AP reports, "the question of how to defuse the human gridlock in Hungary was being hotly debated Thursday in Brussels at a meeting between EU leaders and Hungary's anti-immigrant prime minister, Viktor Orban."
In an opinion piece in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Orban argued he was defending European Christianity against a Muslim influx.
"Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims," he wrote. "This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity. Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian? There is no alternative, and we have no option but to defend our borders."
Hungary has become ground zero in the refugee crisis, serving as a primary entry point into Europe from the Balkans. Orban's right-wing government announced this week that it would deploy troops to its southern border with Serbia—where it recently erected a razor-wire fence—later this month.