Laszlo Balogh / Reuters

Chaos as refugees forced off train after leaving besieged Budapest station

Hundreds of people pile onto west-bound carriages being stopped short of border; Hungarian PM says country ‘overrun’

Refugees poured into the main train station in Budapest on Thursday after police stopped blocking its main entrance, prompting chaotic scenes as carriages crammed with people were allowed to depart only for authorities to forcefully remove them shy of the Austrian border.

After shutting migrants out of the main train station in the capital Budapest for two days, authorities relented and let exhausted and confused migrants to board a westbound train. Hundreds crammed aboard clinging to doors and squeezing their children through open carriage windows.

But instead of proceeding to the Austrian border, the train was 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.

It followed similarly chaotic scenes earlier at Budapest's main train station. After being allowed into the terminal, refugees were confronted with conflicting information regarding whether trains were departing.

“There’s a German flag on this train so we though it went to Germany. So it’s not going to Germany?” a man clinging with one hand to the doors of a train told a Reuters journalist, declining to be named.

The chaos in Budapest has become the latest symbol of Europe’s refugee crisis, the continent’s worst since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing wars, as well as economic migrants escaping poverty, have been arriving in Europe by rickety, overcrowded boat across the Mediterranean or over land across the Balkan peninsula, straining the bloc’s asylum system to breaking point and confounding efforts to forge a united policy.

The International Organization for Migration published new figures Thursday revealing the scale of Europe’s refugee crisis.

Refugees storm into a train in Budapest, Hungary, September 3, 2015.
Laszlo Balogh / Reuters

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

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

The police withdrawal coincided with the start of a special parliamentary session in Hungary to debate tightening migration laws, setting up “transit zones” on the border with Serbia and introducing tougher punishment for those who cross illegally.

Hungary is completing a 11.5-foot fence on its southern border with Serbia to keep out migrants, 140,000 of whom have been caught entering the country so far this year.

The government said the new measures to be adopted by parliament this week would be enacted by Sept 15 and cut illegal border crossings to zero.

In an opinion piece for Germany’s Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his country was being “overrun” with refugees, most of which, he noted, were Muslims, not Christians.

“That is an important question, because Europe and European culture have Christian roots. Or is it not already and in itself alarming that Europe’s Christian culture is barely in a position to uphold Europe’s own Christian values?” he asked.

Hundreds of refugees have been kicked out of one of Budapest's main railway stations. Police are trying to stop them from traveling to Germany.

“Only when we have protected our borders can questions be asked about the numbers of people we can take in, or whether there should be quotas.”

Nearly all those who have entered Hungary press on west to the richer countries of northern and western Europe, ignoring EU rules which require them to wait for processing in the EU country where they first arrive.

Germany expects to receive 800,000 this year and has begun accepting asylum claims from Syrian refugees regardless of where they entered the bloc, even though undocumented migrants are theoretically barred from travel across the EU.

That has caused confusion for its neighbors, which have alternated this week between letting them through and blocking them. Hungary allowed thousands to board trains for Germany on Monday but then called a halt to the travel, leaving migrants camped in the summer heat in central Budapest.

Seventeen-year-old Ysra Mardini, from the Syrian capital Damascus, was among those waiting at the train station.

“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,” she said.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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