Refugees blocked from boarding trains protest at Budapest station

Other Syrian refugees trying to reach Europe have drowned off the coast of Turkey

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Hundreds of refugees protested in front of Budapest's Keleti Railway Terminus for a second straight day on Wednesday, shouting "Freedom! Freedom!" and demanding to be let onto trains bound for Germany from a station that has been closed to them. This week's chaos at the station in Hungary's capital has become the latest symbol of Europe's migration crisis, the continent's worst since the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Hungary's police said they intend to reinforce their positions outside the Keleti terminal as the volume of asylum-seekers arriving through Serbia grows by the hour. They said officers working jointly with colleagues from Austria, Germany and Slovakia were searching for refugees traveling illegally on other Hungarian trains.

An apparent leader of the refugees at the station, 32-year-old Sanil Khan, said they had spent long enough in Budapest and now they want to move on to Germany.

“I want my freedom. I have been on the road for a very long time, and now I am in the European Union, and I want my freedom,” he said, visibly agitated.

More than 2,000 refugees, including families with children, were waiting in the square at the station, while Hungarians with IDs and foreigners with valid passports could board the trains.

With about 50 police blocking the main gates to the station, refugees filled the large, sunlit square in the morning, playing cards, sleeping or charging their phones on electrical outlets shared by television satellite trucks.

Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty have been arriving in Europe, on rickety boats across the Mediterranean and overland across the Balkan Peninsula. But not everyone is succeeds in reaching their destination.

On Wednesday, at least 11 Syrian refugees attempting to reach the Greek island of Kos drowned, washing ashore on a beach in the Turkish town of Bodrum. The deaths reflect the risk people are willing to take to escape war. So far this year, more than 2,500 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean, the UNHCR said.

For the refugees who do make it, nearly all reach the EU on its southern or eastern outskirts and then press on for the richer and more generous countries further north and west, ignoring EU rules that require them to wait for processing in the country where they first arrive.

Many have come across the Balkans through Hungary, which allowed thousands to board trains for Germany on Monday but has since called a halt to the travel, leaving refugees camped in the summer heat in central Budapest.

Asked if Hungary would again let refugees board trains to Germany as it did on Monday, a government spokesman said that Budapest would observe EU rules barring travel by those without valid documents. The station has been shut to refugees since Tuesday morning.

“A train ticket does not overwrite EU rules,“ Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said.

Wire services

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