Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stuck to his line on migrants, deflecting responsibility for handling Europe’s swelling refugee crisis toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel after the two leaders clashed over the issue.
As hundreds of migrants left Budapest’s main train station to walk to Austria, the Hungarian premier urged Germany to grant asylum seekers travel documents to break a deadlock that has left thousands of refugees stranded. More than nine of 10 migrants want to go to Germany and aren’t cooperating with Hungarian authorities, Orban said on public radio MR1 Kossuth on Friday. European Union rules don’t permit Hungary to let refugees travel westward without being registered, he said.
“If Germany wants to accept the Syrians, they should give them a clear and public permit to enter the country,” Orban said. “It’s irresponsible to put forward policy embracing compassion, like the European Union’s quota plan, that can only be seen by refugees as the opportunity of their life.”
Orban and Merkel sparred over the refugee crisis on Thursday, their conflict highlighting a deepening fault line that splits the EU. Hungary, a key transit country for refugees heading north through the Balkans toward Germany, is part of a group of countries urging tighter rules and the necessity to secure the 28-nation bloc’s borders. Germany is leading nations emphasizing the need to address a swelling humanitarian crisis.
Merkel has called on Hungary to abide by Europe’s duty to shelter refugees, while Orban has blamed the region’s biggest flood of migrants since World War II on Germany opening its doors too widely. The German leader wrote a joint letter with French President Francois Hollande to EU officials with proposals on how to deal with the crisis, including binding distribution with EU countries but no concrete numbers. Hungary must process asylum seekers on its soil, said Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, in a discussion with EU President Jean-Claude Juncker late on Thursday, said that the bloc should approach the crisis on the same level as it did with the rescue of its financial industry.
“It cannot be that we gave so much time to the banks with endless meetings but not now,” he said, according to a government statement. “Now this is important because it’s about people.”
Other countries have bristled at Germany’s appeal for them to take in more migrants. Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak called Merkel’s statements welcoming refugees to the EU “irresponsible” on Friday, saying Germany hadn’t coordinated with other EU states first.
The Czechs have also rejected proposed quotas, and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said it should be left up to individual countries to “decide on how many and which refugees they can accept,” according to an interview with Czech state radio on Friday. The crisis had laid bare the need to change the EU’s common asylum and foreign policy, because refugees were now crossing several countries in the EU’s visa-free area borders without being stopped and registered, he said.
“It’s evident that the system of registration and identification doesn’t work,” Sobotka, whose country has seen an influx of thousands of migrants from neighboring states since last month. “This is a crisis that threatens the coherence of the whole of Europe.”
The leaders of the Visegrad 4 nations -- Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic -- will meet in Prague on Friday to discuss a common stance on the crisis.
Outside of the EU to Hungary’s south, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said at least 115,000 migrants crossed the country in the first eight months of this year, according to an interview to the Vecernje Novosti newspaper.
“It’s impossible to halt enormous migration with barbed wire, walls and fences,” said Stefanovic, whose country signed a cooperation agreement with Macedonia, Hungary and Austria on Friday to boost border defense. Europe “didn’t foresee events, nor does it have an idea of how to solve all this.”
In Hungary, about 300 people broke out of a hangar housing refugees near the Serbian border on Friday, Szabolcs Szenti, spokesman for the Csongrad Country police, said by phone.
Thousands of refugees have been left stranded in Budapest Hungary’s railway operator halted direct trains to western Europe and police forced migrants to get off domestic routes heading toward the Austrian border. Several hundred left the square outside the station seeking to walk to the border, news website Index reported on Friday.
“We’re going to Austria,” said Shadi Rahmoun, a 17-year-old Syrian. “I know it’s a long way away, but we have no choice. Some of the people had been at the train station for 10 days.”
People on a train halted on Thursday by police in Bicske, a town 30 kilometers (19 miles) outside Budapest, are still refusing to go to the nearby refugee center, Laszlo Balazs, the head of border police unit said at a press conference in Budapest. “The police is willing to wait for the refugees’ cooperation for as long as it takes.”
Police have registered more than 162,000 illegal border entries and started criminal proceedings against 900 smugglers so far, said Balazs. Police detained four activists from Vienna in Budapest, who wanted to take refugees over the border by car, APA news agency reported Friday. The activists were returned after a protest by Austria’s foreign minister.
There are 3,500 refugees in Hungary’s processing points, we can accommodate as many people as necessary,’’ Attila Kiss, deputy CEO of Hungary’s immigration office told reporters in Budapest. “We can always expand capacities, if needed.”