10,000 migrants stream into Austria

SAFE AT LAST  A migrant carries a child on his shoulders upon arrival at the Westbahnhof railroadstation in Vienna, on Saturday as hundreds of migrants arrive by bus and train from Hungary to continue their journey to Germany. AFP PHOTO

A migrant carries a child on his shoulders upon arrival at the Westbahnhof railroadstation in Vienna, on Saturday as hundreds of migrants arrive by bus and train from Hungary to continue their journey to Germany. AFP PHOTO

VIENNA: The total number of migrants entering Austria from Hungary in the current wave is expected to reach up to 10,000, the Austrian interior ministry said Saturday.

Around 4,000 have poured across the border during the night and in the morning hours after Hungary began taking people in buses to the border.

The first bus carrying migrants who have been stranded in the Hungarian capital reached the Austrian border early Saturday, after Vienna and Berlin agreed to take in thousands of refugees desperate to start new lives in Western Europe.

Some 50 migrants from the 1,200 or so people who set off on foot from Budapest for the Austrian border earlier—including some in wheelchairs and on crutches—reached the Hegyeshalom-Nickelsdorf border post, Austrian police said, in the first of 100 vehicles laid on by the Hungarian authorities.

Several other buses earlier also left the Keleti train station in the Hungarian capital carrying people who have been stuck there for days in makeshift refugee camps waiting for trains to Austria and Germany.

Hungary has become the newest flashpoint as hundreds of thousands of migrants try to cross its borders on their journey to Western Europe, particularly Germany, which has said it will no longer deport Syrian refugees and will take in 800,000 people this year.

Some 2,500-3,000 migrants have entered Austria from Hungary in the past few hours, Austrian police said early Saturday after Hungary began taking people in buses from Budapest to the border.

“I am standing right at the border to Hungary and am looking down. The streams [of people]keep coming,” Hans Peter Doskozil, chief of police in Burgenland state, told the Austria Press Agency.

“We are waiting for 17 or 18 double-decker buses to be able to take people to Vienna, maybe also towards Germany,” he said.

Berlin urged an end to “recriminations” as Britain said it would take in thousands more Syrian refugees—but only directly from camps, not those already in overstretched Hungary, Greece and Italy, who are demanding their EU partners do more to help.

The human cost of the crisis was exposed this week when the body of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, which was buried with his brother and mother in his war-torn hometown of Kobane on Friday, was found washed up on a beach in Turkey.

On board one of the buses to Austria, exhausted migrants veered between concern and relief as they waited to see if their long journeys to Western Europe were about to come to an end. Many were nervous after Hungary tried to transport a trainload of migrants heading for Austria into a camp on Thursday.

Between 800 and 3,000 migrants are expected to arrive at the Austrian border in the coming hours, said police spokesman Werner Fasching, adding that law enforcement and workers from the Red Cross were waiting to receive them.

Some 600 beds have been made available in Nickelsdorf for the new arrivals and neighboring regions have also mobilized to ensure they are provided with food and medical care, he said.

‘Next stop Austria’
Some 50,000 migrants entered Hungary last month via the western Balkans, with a record 3,300 arriving on Thursday, according to United Nations figures.

Hungary has responded with tough new anti-immigration measures, including by crimi-nalizing unauthorized border crossing and any damage to a razor-wire fence recently erected along the border with Serbia.

Right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban sparked anger by saying his country did not want more Muslim migrants and warning that Europe would lose its Christian identity.

“We are very happy that something is happening at last. The next stop is Austria. The children are very tired, Hungary is very bad, we have to go somehow,” 23-year-old Osama from Syria told Agence France-Presse as he set off from Hungary.

Poor camp conditions and slow registration procedures for asylum-seekers appear to have contributed to rising tensions at Hungary’s refugee facilities.

Earlier Friday, about 300 people had broken through a fence at a Hungarian refugee camp and clashed with police, while another 300 escaped from a collection point for migrants intercepted at the border.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres warned Friday the 28-member EU faced a “defining moment” and called for the mandatory resettlement of 200,000 refugees by EU states.

‘Wake up call’
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said Saturday the plight of thousands of migrants stranded in Hungary, now being taken into his country, was a “wake up call” for Europe.

“This has to be an eye opener how messed up the situation in Europe is now,” Kurz said as he arrived for informal talks with his EU peers dominated by the deepening refugee crisis.

“I hope that this serves as a wake up call that [the situation]cannot continue.”

Thousands of exhausted migrants were streaming into Austria from Hungary early Saturday.

Several thousand migrants had been blocked for several days in the main railway station in Budapest, the Hungarian capital, as the government insisted they could not travel onwards without proper documentation.

Conditions at the station became increasingly tense, with more than a 1,000 migrants setting off on foot for Austria late Friday in defiance of the authorities.

The 28-nation EU is sharply divided over what to do with the flood of migrants fleeing war and turmoil across the Middle East and North Africa.

Hungary, along with many of the bloc’s newer eastern members, flatly opposes quotas and insists current rules should be applied.



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