BUDAPEST, Hungary — Thousands of exhausted, elated migrants 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 the mass evacuation of the capital’s central rail station.
About 4,000 migrants crossed into Austria from Hungary by mid-morning, according to Austrian police spokesman Helmut Marban. Vienna city official Roman Hahslinger said 2,300 had arrived in Vienna by midday, and 1,500 had boarded trains for Salzburg.
Hungary’s nationalist government had spent most of the week trying to force migrants to report to government-run refugee centers, but thousands refused 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 blocked the main rail line as they, too, marched west.
Austria and Germany made the breakthrough possible by announcing they would take responsibility for the mass of humanity that was already on the move west or camped out in their thousands at Keleti. Hungary on Tuesday had suspended train services from that station to Austria and Germany, compounding the build-up there in a futile bid to try to make the visitors file asylum papers in Hungary.
Austrian Federal Railways said the arrivals, once they passed through hastily assembled border shelters and enjoyed refreshments, were being placed on trains to both Vienna and the western city of Salzburg and, for those who requested it, links onward to German cities.
The human rights watchdog Amnesty International welcomed the initiative to clear Hungary’s humanitarian traffic jam.
“After endless examples of shameful …Read More