Hungary draws fire as migrants face off police on blocked train

2015-09-04 10:37
(Atilla Kisbenedek, AFP)

(Atilla Kisbenedek, AFP)

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Budapest (dpa) - Around 500 migrants from the Middle East hoping to reach Austria were still stranded at a train station near Budapest on Friday morning, nearly a full day since they faced off Hungarian police and refused to be escorted to a collection centre.  

The people also refused food and beverages offered to them, police said. They want to continue their trip toward Western Europe, with most eventually hoping to reach Germany and other, richer European nations and seek asylum there.

The migrants, mostly Syrians fleeing the war at home, boarded the train in Budapest at noon on Thursday,  after spending at least two days in Budapest, blocked by police from further travel.

But police stopped the train as it headed to Sopron, on Hungary's border with Austria, at Bicske, only 40 kilometres west, and ordered the migrants out, saying they must be registered at a collecting centre for migrants in the town.

Once registered in Hungary, that country is responsible under EU law for processing their aslyum claim.

Sanctions

The situation was still unresolved nearly a full day later.

Hungary's conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban meanwhile drew fire for the handling of the crisis.

His government has built a razor-wire fence along the border with Serbia to keep migrants out and plans to reinforce it with police and military patrols from mid-September.

Budapest is also set on Friday to pass a law against border trespassers, introducing a three-year sentence for those who illegally cross and five for those who damage the fence in the process. The measure would also pave the way for army patrols of Hungarian borders.

Orban on Thursday has said that the migrants are a German problem, since most want to reach that country. He added that Hungary does not want to shelter Muslims, citing the painful Ottoman occupation centuries ago.

"Sometimes one must feel shame because of Viktor Orban. He has spoiled much in Hungary, but also much when it comes to values in the European Union," Luxemburg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told the German television ZDF Thursday night.

"It would be disastrous if we had to impose sanctions on countries to force them into showing humanity," he said asked whether Hungary could be forced to treat migrants differently.

Refugee crisis

Foreign ministers from EU nations are gathering in Luxembourg Friday for an informal meeting, but the topic of migration is not set to come up until Saturday's meetings.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, on Friday issued a statement calling for more action.

"This is a primarily refugee crisis, not only a migration phenomenon," he wrote. "The vast majority of those arriving in Greece come from conflict zones like Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan and are simply running for their lives. All people on the move in these tragic circumstances deserve to see their human rights and dignity fully respected, independently of their legal status."

He said the European Union needs to find ways to make space for about 200 000 people trying to reach its shores.

So far, member states have fallen short of targets to redistribute 40 000 people. Next week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to propose a revised goal of relocating 120 000 people from Hungary, Greece and Italy.

Read more on:    hungary  |  migrants

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