Hungarian authorities opened the gates of the Keleti train station in Budapest early Thursday, allowing refugees to enter the station that had remained locked for two days, the BBC reported. However, trains to Western Europe have not yet resumed.
Since Tuesday, hundreds of migrants have been stranded at the station, where authorities prevented them from travelling north to Germany, reportedly citing EU rules. On Thursday, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban is due to meet with European Union leaders to discuss the burgeoning refugee crisis in the region.
“We don't want to stay in Hungary, we want to go to whatever place we want,” a Syrian refugee, identified only as Mohammed, told the Associated Press. “They are forcing us to stay here.”
Germany, Italy and France have called for a “fair distribution” of refugees throughout the EU, according to a statement released by the Italian foreign ministry Wednesday. However, Orban -- who has taken a firm anti-immigration stance -- is unlikely to agree to such a proposition, the BBC reported.
A senior German government official reportedly said that the country expects 800,000 asylum seekers this year -- four times higher than last year. “As one of the world's richest countries, with good infrastructure, a viable welfare state, and a solid budget surplus, we are in a position to rise to the occasion,” Andrea Nahles, the German labor and social affairs minister, reportedly said at a briefing ahead of Friday’s G20 meeting in Turkey.
According to Wolfgang Bosbach, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, Germany is currently receiving 40 percent of the refugees arriving in Europe every day.
“A wave of long-term mass migration has hit Europe,” Janos Lazar, Orban’s chief of staff, said Wednesday. “The EU has failed to manage the situation, and the problem is the EU itself, which is incapable of protecting its own borders.”
The meeting comes just a day after images of a Syrian child’s body that washed up near a resort in western Turkey surfaced online, triggering widespread protests over the EU’s handling of the crisis.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing wars in Africa and the Middle East, as well as economic migrants attempting to escape crippling poverty, have arrived in the EU in recent months, severely straining Europe’s asylum system. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), approximately 350,000 migrants have made the perilous journey to reach Europe’s shores since January this year. And, in the same period, over 2,600 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean.
Most recently, on Wednesday, at least 12 refugees, including five children, drowned off the Turkish coast when two boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized. Widely-circulated images of a child’s body -- identified as three-year-old Kobani resident Aylan -- have since triggered an outcry, with several rights activists and leaders calling on European governments to “be more generous.”
Pressure is also building on the U.K., which has so far refused calls to take in more refugees from the war-torn Middle East.
“When mothers are desperately trying to stop their babies from drowning when their boat has capsized, when people are being left to suffocate in the backs of lorries and when children’s bodies are being washed to shore, Britain needs to act,” Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary and Labour leadership candidate, reportedly said Wednesday.
An online petition calling for the British government to increase support for refugees to the U.K. will be considered for debate in the parliament after it gathered more than 100,000 signatures. The petition, which says that the David Cameron-led government is “not offering proportional asylum in comparison with European counterparts” has so far been signed by over 123,600 people.
“If every area in the U.K. took just 10 families, we could offer sanctuary to 10,000 refugees. Let’s not look back with shame at our inaction,” Cooper said.