By Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum,
LONDON — European railways were ground zero Wednesday in faltering efforts to contain the continent’s burgeoning refugee crisis, with thousands of asylum-seekers camped out at Hungary’s main train station and service between Paris and London disrupted overnight after reports of migrants on the tracks.
A day after Hungary temporarily halted rail traffic at Budapest’s grand 19th century station, at least 2,000 asylum-seekers remained stranded, with Hungarian authorities refusing to let them travel onward to Austria and Germany.
Several hundred staged an impromptu demonstration, shouting “Freedom! Freedom!” and demanding that they be allowed to use the tickets that many had already purchased for hundreds of euros.
[European railways become ground zero for the migrant crisis]
Meanwhile, across the continent, passengers on the Eurostar service between Britain and France were left stranded for hours overnight, and at least one train had to turn back, as authorities searched for migrants who had been reported on the tracks and atop the trains. Two other trains were canceled Wednesday morning.
The delays disrupted travel for up to 2,000 passengers and were just the latest in a summer in which migrants have frequently sneaked onto tracks near the Channel Tunnel, in the French port city of Calais, in an effort to stow away on a British-bound train.
Elsewhere in Europe on Wednesday, 11 migrants were reported to have drowned when two boats capsized in the narrow strait between Turkey and the Greek island of Kos. The Turkish news agency Dogan said five other people remained missing, although there was no immediate confirmation from the coast guard.
The European border control agency Frontex said 23,000 migrants arrived in Greece last week alone — a 50 percent increase over the previous week.
The escalating crisis has forced European policymakers to call an emergency summit for Sept. 14 at which European Union leaders are expected to push for a more coordinated effort by the 28 E.U. member states.
The plans are expected to include a new system for distributing refugees more equitably across the continent, as well as rules for determining which migrants should be returned to their home countries because they fail to meet the definition of a refugee.
E.U. Migration Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos told Reuters on Tuesday that the refugee crisis represents “a crash test for the European institutions.”
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