By Michael Birnbaum and Anthony Faiola,
BRUSSELS — Overwhelmed by thousands of asylum-seekers, Hungarian authorities Tuesday briefly halted rail traffic from their nation’s main train station, the latest blow to borderless movement in Europe.
The abolition of border controls between European Union nations has been a central pillar of European leaders’ dreams of stitching together a continent of common values and interconnected economies. But in just weeks, the mounting migration crisis has begun to erode a system that took decades to build.
Hungarian authorities shuttered Budapest’s grand fin-de-siecle train station for hours on Tuesday morning, stopping rail traffic for all passengers while they worked to clear crowds of hundreds of migrants who had gathered at the station in recent days.
The asylum-seekers, many of whom are fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, hope to make it onward to Germany, which has promised shelter and sustenance for Syrians. By midday in Budapest, the train station had been reopened, but migrants were being kept away, Hungary’s state-owned news agency reported.
Austria has also significantly increased inspections of vehicles crossing the border from Hungary since Sunday, causing backups of trucks that stretched for miles, another sign of the fast-mounting barriers between nations that years ago closed their border checkpoints. Authorities on Monday had allowed thousands of migrants to board trains to Austria, prompting complaints from Austrian leaders.
“Just allowing them to board in Budapest . . . and watching as they are taken to your neighbor, that’s not politics,” said Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann in an interview late Monday with the ORF broadcaster.
There are no signs the crisis is abating. Greece’s coast guard said Tuesday that it had rescued 1,192 migrants and refugees from Monday to Tuesday near eastern Greek islands that are close to the Turkish coast. That was a significantly higher figure than in recent weeks. From Greece, migrants try to move northward through the Balkans, to Hungary and onward to Western Europe.
Appeals to take in desperate asylum-seekers have run into skepticism that swift changes would actually take place.
In a news conference Tuesday alongside Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the two leaders had agreed that a common European solution to the refugee crisis was needed.
She reiterated her call that even as genuine refugees should be granted asylum, economic migrants …Read More