BUDAPEST, Hungary — Tempers flared among the thousands trapped in a makeshift refugee camp in the heart of Budapest on Wednesday as Hungary played hardball with its unwelcome visitors for a second day, blocking train ticket-clutching migrants from traveling deeper into Europe.

The migrants, who have swamped every nook and cranny of public space outside the city’s train station, threatened to walk the 105 miles to the Austrian border if police don’t let them board trains to their desired destinations in Austria and Germany.

“I will walk the whole way if I must,” declared 28-year-old Ahmed Shamoun, who deserted Syria’s army three months ago, leaving nine brothers and eight sisters behind in Damascus.

Hungary tantalizingly opened the way Monday, allowing more than 1,000 migrants to pack westbound trains – and inspiring a migrant surge to the capital – before it withdrew the option 24 hours later. The question of how to defuse the human gridlock in Hungary is set to dominate meetings in Brussels on Thursday between EU leaders and Hungary’s anti-immigrant prime minister, Viktor Orban.

Hungary, which for months had permitted most applicants to head west after short bureaucratic delays, now says it won’t let more groups deeper into the European Union and has cited EU backing for the move. Police blocking migrants from entering the capital’s main train hub also stopped them from marching around the station.


Migrants “are not entitled to move freely within the European Union even after entering Hungary,” government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said.

The tent city outside Keleti has grown to an estimated 3,000 migrants camped on the concrete plaza and subway entrances. Men sleep tightly packed together, using backpacks for pillows, as children play in their midst, coloring with crayons or swerving around the carpet of bodies on tricycles. Rumors in shouted Arabic spread quickly.

Conditions around the transportation hub have grown increasingly squalid despite the efforts of volunteers distributing water, food, medicine and disinfectants. Restaurants demand cash to let migrants use their restrooms. A lone city fire hose provides water from a faucet, where a sign in English prohibiting the washing of feet is ignored.

The fate of Europe’s asylum seekers, more than 330,000 of whom have arrived so far this year, is dividing Hungary as illustrated by two profoundly different demonstrations Wednesday.

Around 5,000 people marched in Budapest in support of combating racism and strengthening state support for the new arrivals from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

“The government is carrying out policies which are inhumane, un-Christian and lack solidarity,” said Veronika Kramer, a lawyer who earlier had taken her young sons to meet migrants and give them bottled water.

Some 110 miles to the south, on Hungary’s border with Serbia, leaders of the neo-fascist Jobbik party – the third-largest in Hungary – led some 300 supporters on a march that confronted the newest migrant arrivals with xenophobic verbal abuse.


Waving Hungarian and party flags, the Jobbik activists shouted into the faces of migrants walking into Hungary along train tracks that pass through Hungary’s border security barriers. The migrants, many of whom had just walked for hours from Serbia, appeared terrified.

Hungary’s government says it will pass a bill soon that creates prison-style migrant holding centers near the border that allow for fast-track decisions, limited rights of appeal and easier deportations back to Serbia. “We have to reinstate law and order at the borders of the European Union, including the border with Serbia,” said Kovacs, the Hungarian government spokesman.

Elsewhere on the long route into Europe, 13 people died when two boats ferrying them from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos capsized. Turkish media said 12 drowned, including a woman and three children.

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