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Ugly scenes as Hungary 'tricks' migrants onto train

03 September 2015, 20:42

Hungary - Ugly scenes erupted in Hungary on Thursday as migrants fought their way onto what they thought was the first train to western Europe in days, only to be left feeling tricked as police halted the train and tried to move them to a refugee camp.

Mayhem ensued at the small train station of Bicske where it was stopped, including when one man pulled a woman and a baby onto the train tracks and refused to be moved before several bulky police dragged him off.

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"I would rather die than go to a camp," one Iraqi man told AFP as his daughter one of many children on the train was taken to hospital with a swollen cheek in the humid late-summer heat.

Most of the migrants, estimated by an AFP reporter to number 200-300, refused to get off the train and onto buses that state news agency MTI reported would take them to the nearby camp.

Furious at their treatment and feeling they had been tricked onto the train, they began chanting "Germany! Germany!" their intended destination after a treacherous journey of hundreds of miles.

Others held placards with the words "SOS" and "Help!". "I need to go to Germany for life," read another, held by a child. Police handed out water bottles but some of the migrants poured the water onto the ground in disgust.

There were around 100 police present including riot police. An AFP reporter said late afternoon that reinforcements were arriving.

The incident occurred after Hungarian police decided on Thursday morning to open Budapest's main international train station Keleti, two days after blocking it to migrants.

That decision came after Hungary on Monday allowed several thousand to board trains for Austria and Germany.

It left around 2,000 men, women and children stranded around the station or in the underground "transit zone", sheltering on blankets in cramped conditions, looked after only by Hungarian volunteers.

As well as the crowds at Keleti, several hundred migrants have been camping out at nearby John Paul II square, as well as another train station, Nyugati (western), across the city.

"I want to know when the Hungarian government is going to let us go to Germany," said Nizamuddin, 31, an Afghan who worked as an interpreter for the US army for four years and who wants to claim asylum in Germany.

"I slept for about two hours last night. It was very cold and windy last night and I had no blanket. My body was shaking," he said at the Keleti station.

"I last showered four days ago. I haven't changed my shirt for four days and my trousers for 15 days. Smugglers took my bag and my cellphone."

No international trains

When the station was re-opened on Thursday morning, more than a thousand migrants stormed in, fighting with each other to get on the train headed, or so they thought, to near the Austrian border.

A public announcement said however that the train would be going nowhere, and that no trains for western Europe would be leaving Keleti station "for an indefinite period".

Two hours late it finally left, its occupants people carrying luggage, fathers with children on their shoulders believing their trek to western Europe had finally resumed.

Around 2,000 people remained at Keleti, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimated. Volunteers put the number at closer to 3,000, many of them sitting listlessly, others clamouring for food, water and blankets.

Small groups huddled, furiously debating, sometimes boiling over into scuffles. One man said some people are talking of how to find smugglers. Placards read "My family is waiting for me" and "Where is the humanity?"

As in recent days, there were a number of demonstrations including with one man hoisted onto another's shoulders, leading chants of "Do you want to stay in Hungary? NO! Do you want to go to Germany? Yes!"

"I paid 700 euros ($775) on Monday for these train tickets to Munich for my family. They tricked us, the train looked like it was German," one enraged Syrian man, at Keleti for four days, told AFP.

"Dogs have more human rights here than Syrians, they put us on a train, they take us off, then they do it all over again. The EU, the UN are just as bad, they do nothing, they are all liars."

"I left Syria as I was afraid of police arresting me, and now here in Hungary I feel just the same, I don't want to stay here, go to a camp like a prison, just like here," said Bassel, a 26-year-old PhD student from Damascus.

"I think (the train) was a trick by the government, the police and the train company. The train looked like it was going to Germany," Marton Bisztrai, a volunteer at Keleti station, told AFP.

"They just want to get people the hell out of here and into camps. I think this was a very cynical trick."

"We are very concerned. It's a chaotic situation people are suffering. They need help and its not being provided," said Montserrat Feixas Vihe, UNHCR regional representative for central Europe.



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