Austria to revoke measures that let migrants cross from Hungary

Updated: 2015-09-07 14:12


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At the station in Munich, state capital of Bavaria, a few dozen well-wishers turned up to cheer the new arrivals. Those who stopped to speak told of weeks of arduous travel by land and sea. Some seemed intimidated by the welcoming applause.

Almost 11,000 migrants arrived in the city on Sunday, following 6,800 on Saturday, and the president of the government of Upper Bavaria, Christoph Hillenbrand, said Munich was running out of capacity.

Authorities there were using a disused car showroom and a railway logistics centre as makeshift camps, and were adding a further 1,000 beds to 2,300 already set up at the city's international trade fair ground. About 4,000 people were sent to other German states.

"It's getting tight," Hillenbrand told reporters at the train station.

Merkel's decision to allow the influx has caused a rift in her conservative bloc, with her Bavarian allies saying she had pushed ahead without consulting the federal state administrations dealing with the problem on the ground.

The political rift is greater across Europe, with Hungary's Orban accusing Berlin of encouraging the influx.

"As long as Austria and Germany don't say clearly that they won't take in any more migrants, several million new immigrants will come to Europe," he told Austrian broadcaster ORF.

Orban has portrayed the crisis as a defence of Europe's prosperity, identity and "Christian values" against a tide of mainly Muslim migrants. French far-right leader Marine Le Pen accused Germany of looking to lower wages and hire "slaves".

Hungary, the main entry point for migrants into Europe's borderless Schengen zone, plans to seal its southern frontier with a new, high fence by Sept. 15.

Some EU states say the focus should be on tackling the violence in the Middle East that has caused so many to flee.

British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to hold a vote in parliament in early October to allow it to join air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition on Islamic State in Syria, London's Sunday Times said, and Le Monde reported that France was also considering joining.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Saturday failed to agree on any practical steps.

"When rich Europe argues and tears itself apart over whether to accept 1,000, 10,000, 42,000 or 100,000 refugees, when Turkey already has 2 million, it is clear that we have a problem of perspective and identity," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.


In Budapest's Keleti station, migrants and refugees followed handwritten signs in Arabic directing them to trains to Hegyeshalom on the Austrian border, and volunteers handed out food and clothing.

On the frontier, long lines of people, many wrapped in blankets or sleeping bags and carrying sleeping children, got off buses on the Hungarian side and walked across into Austria.

"We're happy. We'll go to Germany," said a Syrian who gave his name as Mohammed.

But on Hungary's border with Serbia, there were reports that people had spent the night in the rain without food or shelter.

"While Europe rejoiced in happy images from Austria and Germany yesterday, refugees crossing into Hungary right now see a very different picture: riot police and a cold hard ground to sleep on," Amnesty International researcher Barbora Cernusakova said in a statement.

The numbers in Europe are small compared to the almost 4 million refugees in Syria's neighbours Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, and Pope Francis called for every European church parish and religious community to take in one migrant family each.

But a poll in the French newspaper Aujourd'hui en France showed 55 percent of French people opposed to softening rules on granting refugee status.

European leaders are due to expand their list of "safe" countries to which migrants looking for a better life but not in fear of life and limb can be returned.