21st Nov 2017

Trains packed with migrants arrive in Vienna

  • Police at the Westbahnhof station looked on as volunteers handed out water. (Photo: mr_dd)

Hundreds of people seeking refuge arrived at Vienna’s Westbahnhof station from the Hungarian capital Budapest on Monday (31 August), with most seeking to head on to Germany.

Tensions remained high at Budapest’s Keleti railway station on Tuesday morning as migrants eagerly awaited the next train to Munich.

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  • Migrants at Keleti train station, in Budapest (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

Hundreds of migrants tried to get on the last train leaving Budapest for the German city on Monday evening, but were told to wait until the morning.

Hungary has been stopping migrants from boarding international trains since mid-August, even if they had valid tickets.

But that policy seemed to have changed on Monday, as thousands of migrants demanded to be allowed to leave for Germany.

Over the weekend, protests erupted at the railway station with migrants wanting to leave for Germany chanted: "Germany Yes! Hungary No! Let us leave!”.

Andras Giro-Szasz, a spokesperson for the Hungarian government, said Germany should clarify the legal status of migrants travelling within the EU.

Germany has said it will allow Syrian asylum-seekers to stay, even if they have no documents.

Zoltan Kovacs, another government spokesperson, said that under EU rules migrants cannot travel freely without documents.

"People at Budapest’s Keleti railway station demanding to be allowed free passage are demanding something which is not possible under European legislation”, Kovacs said.

A record 8,792 migrants making their way into Hungary were detained over the weekend by police.

Austrian authorities said they would send train passengers who had already applied for asylum back to Hungary.

But AFP reports that police at the Westbahnhof station looked on as volunteers handed out water.

The arrivals on Monday coincided with a demonstration of some 20,000 people in Vienna in support of migrant rights.

They also came as senior officials marked the deaths of 71 people who died in the back of a lorry last week.

The lorry was found abandoned on the A4 motorway near the town of Parndorf, prompting Austrian authorities to step up border security controls with neighbouring countries. The victims are thought to be Syrian refugees.

Five people linked to the tragedy have been arrested.

The EU’s passport-free Schengen area bans systematic border controls, but allows authorities to conduct random security checks.

National authorities can also reintroduce border controls at internal borders for up to 30 days in case of a serious threat to public safety or internal security.

“The police can carry out checks but they shouldn’t have an equivalent to border checks", said an EU official.

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