BUDAPEST, Hungary (Sept. 7) – Hungary has had enough. After weeks of turmoil driven by immigrants surging through the country’s frontiers on their way to Germany, borders with Serbia to the south and Austria to the north are being closed in an effort to return order to the nation’s sovereignty.
Dedicated train services for migrants between the capital Budapest and border regions are also being wound up.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann told reporters late Sunday night he supports the closures after what he called “intensive talks” with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“We have always said this is an emergency situation in which we must act quickly and humanely,” said Faymann. “We have helped more than 12,000 people in an acute situation. Now we have to move step-by-step away from emergency measures towards normality, in conformity with the law and dignity.”
Austria’s agreement to once again close its border came after a statement broadcast by state television broadcaster ORF, when Mr Orban said the two countries should state clearly they will not accept more refugees, “because otherwise several million people would arrive in Europe.”
Entering the EU without documents is against the rules, but despite that Austria allowed migrants to enter the country. Most of the migrants arriving are economic refugees, Orban has been quoted as saying.
He pointed out that Hungary has sufficient “financial and police forces” to provide accommodation and food to those needing protection, “but despite that they all want to go to Germany.”
“The problem is not with us,” the prime minister stressed, adding his country is open to talks about European quotas for taking in refugees once the frontier is sealed off, Orban told ORF, Reuters reported.
Later today a special rail link to the Hungarian border town of Hegyeshalom will come to an end, Austria’s national railway company told the Associated Press. A standard direct service between Vienna and Budapest will take its place, spokeswoman Sonya Horner said.
Fourteen trains from Budapest arrived at the Hegyeshalom station through Sunday afternoon, disgorging refugees onto the platform. They supplemented 104 buses used to clear Budapest’s central Keleti train station and Hungary’s major motorway of around 4,000 migrants and deliver them to the border in a 48-hour operation that started Saturday.
Police waived document checks as passengers walked to waiting Austria-bound trains, which typically left less than three minutes later. Austrian police said more than 13,000 refugees had passed through their country to Germany over the past two days, far more than expected.
Meanwhile Hungary is rushing to complete a new border fence separating it from Serbia while at the same time building holding areas for immigrants trying to enter the country without passports or identity documents. Under EU rules anyone claiming asylum in a member country must be register at their first point of landing and as Greece and Italy are failing to do so Hungary is intent on enforcing a rule others are turning their back on.
Hungary has set a deadline of September 15 for work on the fence to be complete.