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Fleeing conflict Refugee arrivals via Hungary remain limited

Hungarian authorities have stopped preventing migrants from travelling from Budapest to Western Europe

(Keystone)

Around 5,000 refugees reportedly travelled by trains from Hungary to Austria and Germany over the past couple of days. Neighbouring Switzerland witnessed only a handful of arrivals by train on Tuesday. 

Swiss police and customs officials were out in force on Tuesday morning at Buchs train station in the eastern canton of St Gallen - the first stop after the Austrian border - expecting the arrival of hundreds of refugees. 

However, only ten people were handed over to the police from two trains which arrived at 8.00am and 10.00am. These were mostly Syrians.

“They are tired and exhausted,” said St Gallen police spokesman Hanspeter Krüsi.

Those who asked for asylum were transferred to the asylum centre at Altstätten. A police spokesperson said that those who had been registered in Hungary would be sent back there under the terms of the Dublin accord.

Austrian police said 3,650 people arrived in the Austrian capital, Vienna, from Hungary on Monday, with most heading for Germany. By Tuesday morning, about 1,400 people had arrived in Munich, southern Germany, after travelling through Austria and more were expected.

“100 to 200 people a week”

Andreas Brunner, who is responsible for migration issues at the St Gallen cantonal police, said east-west migration on trains had been happening for years but that the number of people travelling the route had increased significantly since June. Since then, 100 to 200 people a week had been arriving in this way, usually on two trains arriving in the early morning.

Hungary lies along a highly frequented migration route from the Middle East and Africa which leads from Greece across the Balkans into the European Union. Most of those who arrive in Hungary seek to continue west to countries like Germany and Sweden.

Hungarian authorities recently stopped preventing the several thousand people camped near Budapest’s train station from departing on trains for Western Europe. Meanwhile, Hungary is in talks with other eastern European countries and the European Union about how to address the situation.

Hungarian officials had earlier appeared to abandon efforts to register them under EU rules, which say they should seek asylum in the first EU country they enter.

Closed station

On Tuesday, Hungary briefly suspended all traffic from its main rail terminal and cleared the station of hundreds of refugees trying to board trains for Austria and Germany.   

Migrants chanting "freedom, freedom" congregated outside the station after being pushed out from the station building, joining hundreds more in what has become a transit zone and place of refuge for those fleeing Syria's war and other Middle East hotspots.    

Scuffles broke out earlier in the morning as hundreds of people pushed toward metal gates at the platform where a train was scheduled to leave for Vienna and Munich, and were blocked by police. Several said they had spent hundreds of euros for tickets after police told them they would be allowed free passage.   

The closure of the station appeared to be prompted in part by pressure from other EU countries trying to cope with the influx from Hungary. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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