By Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum,
BUDAPEST — Sending Europe’s refugee crisis hurtling toward another country, Hungary’s leaders on Friday backed down from a confrontation with thousands of asylum-seekers, offering to bus the desperate migrants to the border with Austria.
The late-night offer came after days of efforts to repel the thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty who have streamed into Hungary in a bid to reach Western Europe, where they hope to begin new lives. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had painted his hard-line approach against the mostly Muslim asylum-seekers as a stand to preserve Europe as a Christian continent.
But after a column of migrants more than a mile long streamed onto Hungary’s main highway to Austria, it appeared that authorities felt they had no alternative but to pass the challenge to their neighbor, another country that has been ambivalent about the influx.
The Hungarian decision to provide up to 100 buses to take the asylum-seekers to the border did little to resolve the challenge facing Europe, which has failed to come up with a unified response to the mounting numbers on its borders. Instead, the plans simply shifted the crisis to another state, leaving the fundamental problem — a bloc of 503 million people unable to agree whether and how to house several hundred thousand refugees — to burn for another day.
“The European Union has proved to be inadequate to address the situation,” Janos Lazar, the Hungarian prime minister’s chief of staff, said in an address in parliament. He said that the decision had been made to clear the roads to ensure the country’s transportation security.
It was unclear whether the migrants would accept the offer of buses from Budapest’s main train station and from the unlit highway where many were walking in the dark Hungarian night. An offer the day before of trains to the border proved to be a trick to clear them into migrant processing camps.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had agreed to take in the asylum-seekers that Hungary was moving to the border.
“On the basis of today’s emergency at the Hungarian border, Austria and Germany are allowing an onward journey of the refugees into their countries in this instance,” Faymann said in a statement on …Read More