by SIMON KENT
BUDAPEST, Hungary – The human flood tide surging into Europe from its southern Mediterranean shores is only beginning. Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban has warned that ‘uncountable millions’ of migrants from the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa are on the way and the EU should get ready to meet the crisis sooner rather than later.
Hungarian authorities spent most of the past week trying to force those entering the country to report to government-run refugee centres to register for asylum in their initial EU entry point as the 28-nation bloc’s rules require. But thousands refused – some expressing fears that Hungary would deport or detain them indefinitely – and demanded free onward passage chiefly to Germany.
Those refugees initially tried to board trains in Budapest’s main Keleti railway station but were rebuffed. Crowds broke through security lines and began walking 175km (108 miles) to the border, many with small children. Early Saturday, Hungary’ authorities relented and sent a fleet of buses to the station to carry the refugees onwards to northern Europe.
Mr Orban told reporters yesterday the migrants threatened to bring the centre of the capital to a halt and he had no choice but to move them on despite the fact that they refused registration. He said Hungary collected and drove the migrants to the border because they were posing a public menace, particularly by snarling traffic and rail lines west of Budapest.
“It is unacceptable for them to paralyse traffic on the highway and they are putting their own lives at risk,” Orban said at his ruling party’s annual picnic in a village near Lake Balaton. “We proved that we were able to protect both their safety and that of Hungarians.”
Mr Orban said Hungary was determined to reduce the flow of foreigners trying to traverse the country en route to the wealthier, more immigrant-friendly west. He criticised European Union plans to reach a bloc-wide agreement at a summit next week committing each nation to accept a new quota of foreigners to shelter, arguing that this would only spur more one-way traffic.
“What will it solve if we divide 50,000 or 100,000 migrants among us, when uncountable millions will be on the way?” Mr Orban said.
The prime minister’s right-wing government has vowed to take control of Europe’s worst migration crisis since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, sealing Hungary off to a flow of migrants that has topped 140,000 this year alone.
Hungary has become a flashpoint in the crisis as the main entry point into the EU for migrants travelling over land across the Balkan peninsula to reach richer and more generous countries further north and west, above all Germany.
Hungary will resume bussing migrants from Budapest to the German and Austrian borders later today.