By Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum,
BICSKE, Hungary — Furious asylum-seekers began a long march across Hungary on Friday, after authorities tried to halt their journey to Western Europe by stopping rail traffic, penning them in migrant camps and bolstering security at the border.
From Budapest and from the train station in this idyllic town 24 miles west of it, more than a thousand men — and some women and children — began a roughly 100-mile trek to the border with Austria, whether they hope to begin new lives after fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. So many people were walking that by Friday evening, they had forced the closure of the country’s main highway to Western Europe.
In Bicske, asylum-seekers on a packed, surrounded train had been locked in a tense standoff with police for more than a day, defying Hungarian authorities’ attempts to detain them in a migrant processing camp. In the afternoon’s sweltering heat, hundreds rushed police lines and joined the human line along a wide highway to Austria, as Hungary’s leader warned that an influx of Muslim refugees meant that Europeans could become “a minority in our own continent.”
Amid the chaos, the debate over how to respond to Europe’s refugee crisis continued to escalate. Hungarian lawmakers, fearful of the influx of asylum-seekers from conflict-torn Middle Eastern nations, approved measures Friday that gave authorities sweeping powers to seal their border. Central European leaders convening in Prague said they would not support a joint German and French proposal to institute mandatory quotas that would require each European Union nation to share the burden of sheltering refugees.
At the Bicske train station, asylum-seekers said they had been tricked a day earlier by Hungarian police as they tried to reach Western Europe from the capital. Authorities allowed a train packed full of migrants to leave the city center, bound for the border with Austria. But the train made a sudden stop at the station , where a platform was packed with riot police waiting to take them to a migration processing center.
For more than a day, they remained in limbo as their desperation mounted.
Finally, hundreds of them fled, while dozens more surrendered to authorities. They fear that being registered in Hungary would keep them from making it to Western Europe, which has offered them far more generous support.
One 50-year-old man …Read More