BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary suspended all rail traffic Tuesday from its main terminal in Budapest and cleared the train station of hundreds of migrants trying to board trains for Austria and Germany — the hoped-for end destinations in their flight from turmoil in the Mideast and Asia.
Migrants chanting “Freedom! Freedom!” congregated outside the station after being pushed out of the building, joining hundreds more in what has become a transit zone and place of refuge for those fleeing Syria’s war and other hotspots.
Police acted shortly after authorities announced over station loudspeakers that all trains would be stopped from leaving for an indefinite period of time. Hundreds of passengers with travel documents and tickets remained in the cavernous station, some staring at information boards still showing arrival and departure times.
Scuffles broke out earlier Tuesday morning as some of the hundreds of migrants pushed toward metal gates at the platform where a train was to leave for Vienna and Munich, and were blocked by police. Several said they spent hundreds of dollars for tickets after police told them they would be allowed free passage.
The closure of the station appeared prompted in part by pressure from other European Union nations trying to cope with the influx of thousands of migrants flowing through Hungary. Europe has been overwhelmed by a surge of migrants, with over 332,000 arriving so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Police in Vienna said 3,650 migrants arrived from Hungary Monday at the city’s Westbahnhof station, with most continuing on toward Germany.
Many of the migrants had entered Europe through Greece and then traveled north through Macedonia and Serbia before reaching Hungary.
French and German leaders on Monday reminded other European countries of their shared responsibility toward refugees.
An emergency meeting was called for Sept. 14 on the migrant crisis in which more than 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year — often those fleeing Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hundreds have drowned in capsized boats, and the bodies of 71 people were found locked in the back of a truck on the Budapest-Vienna highway on Thursday.
The influx has raised tensions among neighbors, with Greece and Italy accused of failing to stop the migrants from moving farther north. Germany’s decision to allow Syrians to apply for protection there has troubled Hungary, which thinks the move is attracting more people to Europe.
Walls have been erected, razor wire unspooled, and border security stepped up, threatening passport-free travel among European nations that also permit the smooth passage of goods, services and business. About 160,000 migrants have been detained this year in Hungary, which has erected a fence on its border with Serbia.
Sergio Carrera, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies, believes some nations are simply shirking their responsibilities. “No one wants to take charge,” he said. “Countries like Greece and Italy, through which people enter first, are facing serious capacity issues” and can’t process the numbers arriving.
Emphasis has been placed on cracking down on human traffickers, but they have become sophisticated and demand for them is high. “It is almost impossible to take effective action against the smuggling networks,” said Tuesday Reitano, expert at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime. “All the evidence now shows that you have to look at demand-based solutions, actually reducing the number of people who want to come to Europe.”