BUDAPEST, Hungary — Thousands of exhausted, elated people fleeing their Arab and Asian homelands reached their dream destinations of Germany and Austria on Saturday, completing epic journeys by boat, bus, train and foot to escape war and poverty.
Before dawn, they clambered off a fleet of Hungarian buses at the Austrian border to find a warm welcome from charity workers offering beds and hot tea. Within a few more hours of rapid-fire aid, many found themselves whisked by train to the Austrian capital, Vienna, and the southern German city of Munich.
The surprise overnight effort eased immediate pressure on Hungary, which has struggled to manage the flow of thousands of migrants arriving daily from non-EU member Serbia. But officials warned that the human tide south of Hungary still was rising, and more westward-bound travelers arrived in Budapest within hours of an exodus from the capital’s central rail station.
The apparent futility of stopping the migrants’ progress west was underscored when Hungary announced Saturday that its bus service to the border had finished and would not be repeated. Almost immediately two groups hit the pavement to start walking to the border: about 200 people who walked out of an open-door refugee camp near the city of Gyor, and about 300 who left Budapest’s central Keleti train station, the epicenter of Hungary’s recent migrant crisis.
Austrian police spokesman Helmut Marban said more than 5,000 asylum seekers crossed into Austria from Hungary by the afternoon and most had traveled by train to Vienna or beyond. Germany said more than 600 of those have reached Munich. And officials in both Austria and Germany said the unregulated flow of people Saturday from Hungary meant that up to 10,000 might reach Austria by nightfall.
Hungarian authorities had spent most of the week trying to force those flooding into the country to report to government-run refugee centers to apply for asylum in their initial EU entry point as the 28-nation bloc’s rules require. But thousands refused — some expressing fears that Hungary would deport or detain them indefinitely — and demanded free passage chiefly to Germany.
After a three-day standoff with police, thousands marched west Friday from the Keleti train station along Hungary’s major motorway and camped overnight in the rain by the roadside. Hundreds more broke through police lines at a train station in the western town of Bicske, where police were trying to take them to a refugee camp, and …Read More