VIENNA: Trains packed with migrants arrived in Austria’s capital on Monday where 20,000 people turned out to show their support for the new arrivals, as Europe struggled to cope with the biggest movement of people since World War II.
Police looked on as hundreds of migrants — many of them without visas — pulled into Vienna’s Westbahnhof station late in the evening before boarding trains to the Austrian city of Salzburg or on to Munich in southern Germany.
Authorities in Budapest have allowed the migrants, who had been stuck for days in makeshift refugee camps at the city’s stations, to board trains for their ultimate destinations in northern Europe.
The trains were stopped at the Austrian border for several hours as part of a security crackdown after the decomposing bodies of 71 migrants, four of them children, were discovered in an abandoned lorry near the Hungarian border last week.
“I’m going to Germany!” cried one grinning migrant from Afghanistan standing by the doors of a packed train at Westbahnhof.
Europe is on the receiving end of the biggest movement of people since World War II, with more than 300,000 arriving this year, many fleeing war, persecution and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
The escalating crisis has divided the 28-member bloc ahead of fresh emergency talks on September 14, with Western European leaders calling for more efforts to help the new arrivals while countries on its eastern borders say they are struggling to cope.
In a show of support for the migrants, 20,000 people took to the streets of Vienna on Monday evening to protest their ill treatment, while senior government officials attended a church service for the victims of the truck tragedy.
Holding up large banners reading “Refugees welcome” and “I don’t want Europe to be a mass grave,” demonstrators rallied at the Westbahnhof train station before marching as they sang songs about love and solidarity.
Bystanders erupted into applause as the demonstrators, among them parents carrying children on their shoulders, headed down a major shopping thoroughfare watched by police officers with their helmets under their arms.
Not far away, a service was held at St. Stephen’s Cathedral for the scores of migrants found dead in the van.
“We’ve had enough — enough of the deaths, the suffering and the persecution,” the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, told the congregation, which included senior government members.