September 1, 2015
Trains packed with refugees reach Austria and Germany after days of waiting at the Hungarian border.
Trains from Hungary carrying thousands of refugees have started arriving in Vienna and Munich.
In the latest twist in a humanitarian and political crisis that is now testing the survival of both Europe’s open-border regime and its asylum rules, Hungary allowed the refugees, many of them fleeing Syria’s civil war, to cram into at least four trains leaving Budapest for Austria or Germany.
Police in Vienna said on Tuesday that 3,650 refugees had reached the city on Monday, representing a new daily record.
Why Al Jazeera will not say Mediterranean ‘migrants’
Austrian authorities appeared to have given up on trying to apply European Union rules by filtering out refugees who had already claimed asylum in Hungary, train passengers said.
Many of the refugees arriving in Vienna’s railway station on Monday evening immediately raced to board trains heading on to Germany, as policemen looked on passively, preferring not to intervene, witnesses said.
‘Germany, thank you!’
Refugees cheered and chanted “Germany, thank you!” as they saw a welcome sign held up by local people at Munich Central Station late on Monday.
Police said some 500 refugees, mainly from the Middle East, were on the train. They were to be transported by bus to camps where they will be registered.
Germany has taken in more asylum seekers than any other European Union country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday called for other EU nations to do more to help deal with this year’s influx of refugees.
Austrian authorities have stopped hundreds of refugees and arrested five traffickers as part of a clampdown along a main motorway from Hungary against the criminal gangs exploiting the human misery.
On Monday evening, around 20,000 people took part in a pro-refugee rally in Vienna, calling for the fair and respectful treatment of people fleeing from conflicts mainly in the Middle East and Africa.
The protest on Monday came just days after 71 refugees were found dead in a truck on an Austrian highway.
With many dressed in white, the protesters marched through the streets of the Austrian capital, holding candles and banners with slogans reading “Human Rights are Borderless” and “No Person is Illegal”.
“What have we heard today ‘Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,’ and other similar sayings. It is about a culture of welcoming and not controlling the people who are fleeing death. We can’t solve all problems but we must be open-minded and have an open heart,” said Austrian singer and human rights activist, Willi Resetarits.
The route of the demonstration had to be changed because so many turned up to take part but a spokesperson for the police said that the change in plans was not a problem.
“The demonstration has been extremely peaceful, there have not been any incidents, reports or arrests. It was really very, very peaceful and therefore it was not a problem and so the rally is taking place in front of the parliament,” Thomas Keiblinger told Reuters news agency.