Hegyeshalom: Hungary permitted migrants to use normal train services to move closer to Western Europe through its porous western border today, abandoning the visa checks it previously used to prevent them from easily reaching Austria and Germany by public transportation.
The unexpected move came just a day after Hungary buckling from the pressure of a build-up of thousands of asylum seekers at Budapest's main international railway station and on a major highway shuttled several thousand people to its border with Austria using a fleet of buses.
Most hope to settle in Germany, which agreed take Saturday's busloads as an exceptional measure. But both Germany and Austria emphasized that Hungary must handle the cases of other asylum seekers on its own soil. Hungary likewise described the bus convoy as a once-only opportunity for migrants to avoid its own asylum system. Yet thousands continued to flow Sunday into Austria, riding the cross-border trains previously off limits to travelers lacking legal permission to travel through Europe.
Unlike Saturday's movement of asylum seekers, Sunday's train services did not require migrants to walk across the border into Austria to continue their journey. Instead, they merely needed to walk across a train platform, recently purchased train tickets from Budapest in hand.
Associated Press reporters could see train after train at the Hegyeshalom border station in Hungary disgorge passengers from Budapest, predominantly migrants, who immediately walked onto waiting trains bound for Austria. Police took no action other than ensure that all passengers disembarked quickly enough to board the Austria-bound trains, which typically left within 3 minutes of the Budapest train's arrival.
The scene represented only the latest policy change from a Hungarian government struggling to manage an unrelenting flow of Arabs, Asians and Africans traveling without permission through its territory. EU rules stipulate that asylum seekers should seek refuge in their initial EU entry point, but virtually none of the migrants want to claim asylum in Hungary and the country's government is outspoken in its desire to have them leave.
Hungary's national rail service declined to offer a spokesperson to explain how migrants were able to travel without visas on the new two-car cross-border trains operating Sunday in apparent violation of its previous policy. Ticket sellers at Budapest's Keleti station merely rolled their eyes when asked by AP why they were selling Vienna tickets to asylum seekers.
The railway did issue a statement that its previous direct services to Austria now would involve a stop and transfer to a second train at the border station.