Migrants Can Enter Austria and Germany, Official Says
After a day of defiance by increasingly desperate refugees, the government of Hungary metaphorically threw up its hands on Friday and said it was offering to bus thousands of migrants to the Austrian border, sending the crisis spinning closer to the heart of the Continent.... The Austrian chancellor, Werner Faymann, said on his Facebook page on Saturday morning that he had spoken to Mr. Orban and — in agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany — the refugees would be allowed in. “On the basis of the current situation of need, Austria and Germany agree to allow in this case the onward journey of these refugees into their countries,” the Facebook statement said.
Migrants Can Enter Austria and Germany, Official Says
By PALKO KARASZ, ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS and DAN BILEFSKYSEPT. 4, 2015
migrants walking to Germany from Hungary
BUDAPEST — After a day of defiance by increasingly desperate refugees, the government of Hungary metaphorically threw up its hands on Friday and said it was offering to bus thousands of migrants to the Austrian border, sending the crisis spinning closer to the heart of the Continent.
An aide to Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a statement that the buses would transport the thousands still thronging the Keleti railroad station in Budapest and the approximately 1,200 people who stormed out of the train station earlier on Friday and set off on foot toward the Austrian border.
The Austrian chancellor, Werner Faymann, said on his Facebook page on Saturday morning that he had spoken to Mr. Orban and — in agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany — the refugees would be allowed in. “On the basis of the current situation of need, Austria and Germany agree to allow in this case the onward journey of these refugees into their countries,” the Facebook statement said.
”We expect further that Hungary should meet its European obligations, including the obligations which result from the Dublin agreement,” the statement said. “At the same time, we expect Hungary to be ready to solve the current burdens on the basis of the fair distribution which the European Commission is currently working on.”
The refugee dilemma strikes a deep chord in Austria, which accepted waves of people in past decades whenever unrest hit the Soviet bloc: in 1956, after the anti-Soviet revolt in Hungary; in 1968, after Soviet tanks crushed the Prague Spring reforms in Czechoslovakia; in 1981, after martial law was declared in Poland; and in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
While buses could be seen arriving to pick up the marchers, there was no immediate sign of buses around Keleti station Friday night. Shortly after 11 p.m., the police sealed off the stairways that led from the station’s main entrance down to the underground plaza where the migrants were encamped, and riot police moved to close off the area around the station — ostensibly to keep away potentially rowdy soccer fans.
A police officer blocking the entrance to the station said the trains would begin running in one or two hours, but only those with valid tickets would be allowed to board, and that the stairs down to the migrant encampment would continue to be blocked.
“We’ve got orders not to let people up this way,” the officer said.
It was not clear what the government planned for the thousands already being held in reception centers around the country. On Thursday the Hungarian government offered a train ride to the west, but then tried to force the migrants off the train and bus them to a refugee camp outside Budapest.
But there was little doubt that after days of trying, halfheartedly, perhaps, to comply with European Union regulations and registering the refugees, Hungary was ready to follow Greece and Macedonia and pass the burden of the refugees on to the next country to the west, in this case Austria.
The refugees themselves are only too happy to comply, having set their sights on Germany and having scant interest in remaining in a relatively poor country like Hungary. That much was evident earlier in the day, when more than a thousand abandoned Keleti station and embarked on a 300-mile walk, rather than spend another night in a country where they are not welcome.
“This is going to go down in history,” said Rami Hassoun, an Egyptian migrant from Alexandria helping to corral the crowds on a six-lane highway to Austria, where the migrants were accompanied by a police patrol.
Elsewhere, a standoff with the police at the Bicske station outside Budapest ended on Friday with hundreds of refugees fleeing the train and others agreeing to enter a nearby reception center.
Hundreds of others fled a camp in the country’s south, near the Serbian border where they had entered.
The chaos in Hungary reflected the inadequacy of a refugee policy across the 28-member European Union that has forced migrants to register or apply for asylum in the country where they arrive — though in many cases that becomes the country where they are discovered or detained by the authorities.
Once they register and apply, they must remain there — even if that country is as hostile to migrants as Hungary, which is building a 110-mile fence on its border with Serbia to keep them away.
On Friday, lawmakers introduced changes to Hungary’s penal code that would impose tougher measures on migrants — including a new law that makes crossing or damaging the fence punishable by prison or expulsion.
The United Nations said Hungary’s leaders had declined to accept assistance from the agency that supports refugees, including for migrants at Keleti.The meager humanitarian aid at the station is provided by a group of volunteers that formed on Facebook.
Mr. Orban, has said he intends to enforce the European Union rule about asylum, which he has been doing since he was criticized earlier in the week for pushing migrants through the country. At the same time, he has referred to the migrants as “illegal,” regardless of their perilous journeys from strife or civil war, warned against an influx of Muslims and insisted on Friday that Europeans risked becoming a minority in their own continent.
“The reality is that Europe is threatened by a mass inflow of people, many tens of millions of people could come to Europe,” Reuters quoted Mr. Orban as saying on public radio.
Clashes over how to deal with the influx of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere dominated a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Friday in Luxembourg, with no concrete proposals. France and Germany have backed a radical overhaul of the way European Union members share the responsibilities of coping with the crisis, suggesting that countries take in migrants according to their relative wealth and populations. But others have balked at the proposals.
Representatives of the so-called Visegrad group of countries — the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia — meeting in Prague on Friday to forge a common approach, appeared to rally behind Mr. Orban, with the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, railing against quotas and saying that the “chaos” caused by the migration crisis was undermining the confidence of European citizens.
Subhi, a 17-year-old migrant from Damascus, Syria, was among those walking to Germany, even though he walks with a limp. “I’m fed up,” he said. “I’m going to walk all the way to Germany to get treatment.”
Imad Sbeih, a 50-year-old man in a wheelchair who is also from Damascus, was equally determined. “Nothing but death will stop us,” he said.
The local news media reported that up to 300 migrants escaped from a camp at Roszke, in southern Hungary, on Friday morning, running into a field and crossing a highway with the police chasing them.
In Bicske, scores of migrants relented and allowed the authorities to take them to a nearby camp on Friday, the Hungarian state news agency reported, though many others continued to barricade themselves in a train to avoid just that.
Migrants said the situation on the train was becoming unbearable, with the stench of clogged toilets and little to eat or drink. Others talked of pursuing a policy of passive resistance, hoping that Hungary would cave into their demands, even as the authorities were digging in
Laszlo Balazs, a police official in charge of border control, was quoted by the Hungarian state news agency as saying that 120 migrants on a separate train, which had also been stopped by the authorities, had agreed to be escorted to a camp in Vamosszabadi, near the border with Slovakia, where they would be registered by immigration officials.
The police said they had detained over 3,000 people crossing the border illegally and 11 suspected of people smuggling. Asked about a video by The New York Times, showing people identified as police officers pepper spraying migrants about to cross the border with Serbia, Mr. Balazs said they were investigating the episode.
Indifference to migrants has not been limited to Hungary. Domestic politics — the spread and growth of right-wing, anti-immigrant parties — have been framing many of the leaders’ responses to the crisis.
In Britain, Mr. Cameron responded Friday to what his critics call his apathy to the crisis by vowing to accept thousands more Syrians — but only from existing camps near the conflict zone. Leaders are trying to find the difficult balance between offering assistance and not encouraging more people to head to Europe.
Mr. Cameron, who is trying to manage anti-immigration sentiment in the country as well as in his own Conservative Party, had been criticized for dismissing on Wednesday the idea of Britain adhering to a quota system for taking in asylum seekers who reached Europe.
”We think the most important thing is to try to bring peace and stability to that part of the world,” he said, referring to Syria. He added, “I don’t think there is an answer that can be achieved simply by taking more and more refugees.”
Mr. Cameron gave no details or firm numbers on how many Britain would take in. But Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the country would take in 4,000 more Syrians.
Mr. Cameron also emphasized that Britain is spending 900 million pounds, about $1.37 billion, this year to aid Syrians with food, shelter and medical supplies. Later on Friday, he said that Britain would spend £100 million more on aid for Syrians, bringing the total to £1 billion. In the past four years, roughly 5,000 Syrians have been granted asylum in Britain.
The head of the United Nations refugee agency chief, António Guterres, said on Friday that the European Union should take in 200,000 people under an emergency relocation program.
The appeal highlighted the escalation in the movement of migrants, with more than 310,000 reaching southern Europe this year. Germany expects 800,000 by year’s end.
In Syria, a funeral was held Friday for Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old boy whose drowning set off a global outcry after photographs of his body were published. His brother, Ghalib, and mother, Rehan, were also buried on Friday. The family had been trying to reach Greece by boat.
Correction: September 4, 2015
An earlier version of this article misidentified the organization that called for Europe to accept 40,000 migrants after a boat sank off Africa. It was the European Council, not the United Nations refugee agency.
Anemona Hartocollis and Palko Karasz reported from Budapest and Dan Bilefsky from London. Reporting was contributed by Steven Erlanger from London; Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva; James Kanter from Brussels; Hana de Goeij from Prague, Alison Smale from Vienna, Karam Shoumali from Istanbul and Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Lebanon.