Thousands of refugees surged into a Budapest train station in Hungary on Thursday, and an apparent effort by authorities to trick them into taking a train to a refugee camp has resulted in an ongoing standoff with police. After a two-day stalemate at the Keleti rail terminus, authorities initially canceled departures and then allowed hundreds to board a train that they reportedly hoped would take them to Austria or Germany.
Instead, the train stopped in the town of Bicske, west of Budapest, where authorities were waiting to transport them to a refugee facility. The refugees refused to leave the train and also turned down offers of food and water from authorities who sought to take them to the overcrowded, open-door facility, which many of them had left just days earlier.
“No camp!” the refugees at Bicske chanted in Arabic, according to the Guardian. Some reportedly tried to flee on foot, while one family sat beside the tracks and started appealing to journalists for help. Others clashed with police to force their way back onto the train. Later, authorities delivered bottles of water, but many of those in the train threw them back, worried that police officials might have drugged the water. Aid workers also tried to offer food, but they too were turned down.
“We don’t need food and water. Just let us go to Germany,” one refugee said from the train, the Guardian reported.
Authorities then declared the area an “operation zone” and removed reporters from the station, though they were allowed to gather on a different platform.
Police told local media outlets that they were waiting for the press to leave before taking the refugees to the Bicske camp.
Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban railed against European Union authorities at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday. Hungary, which had previously allowed asylum seekers to keep heading west into countries like Germany, this week, declared that it would halt the flow into Europe.
“We Hungarians are full of fear. People in Europe are full of fear, because we see that European leaders, among them the prime ministers, are not capable of controlling the situation,” Orban said, according to the Associated Press.
Orban also confirmed plans to reinforce Hungary's border with Serbia, where it has already erected a fence. He vowed to enforce tougher measures to bolster the country's borders, including biometric screening of all refugees entering the country, and called for stricter laws such as increased jail sentences for smugglers and those who damage the fence.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on all EU nations to honor their obligations toward asylum seekers. “Hungary is right when it says that we must protect our external border and we must register refugees and asylum seekers. That is undisputed ... but of course that’s not the end of it,” she said, during a meeting with Swiss officials in Bern on Thursday, according to the AP.
“There is also an obligation to give protection to those who deserve protection. The Geneva convention on refugees applies not just in Germany but in every European member state,” Merkel said. “The Geneva convention obliges us to take in refugees from civil wars when they are fleeing from fear, war and horror and give them protection. Germany is doing no more and no less than this ... and all countries must do this.”