BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hundreds of migrants chanted defiant slogans outside Budapest’s main international train station Wednesday as Hungarian police blocked them for a second day from seeking asylum in Germany and other wealthy European Union countries.
“What we want? Peace! What we need? Peace!” the migrants shouted outside the cavernous Keleti train station, the latest focal point for European tensions over the unrelenting flow of migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa fleeing war and poverty.
Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, will take a “clear and obvious message” to his meeting Thursday with EU chiefs in Brussels about migrants, a government spokesman said.
“We have to reinstate law and order at the borders of the European Union, including the border with Serbia,” Zoltan Kovacs said. “Without re-establishing law and order, it will be impossible to handle the influx of migrants.”
The 28-nation bloc has been at odds with itself for months on how to deal with the influx that has seen more than 332,000 migrants enter so far this year. Frontline nations like Greece, Italy and Hungary have pleaded for more help, while powerhouse Germany, which is expecting to take in 800,000 migrants this year, the most in the EU, has demanded that other nations step up and take in more asylum-seekers.
At other pressure points Wednesday in the route into Europe, Turkish media reported that 11 migrants drowned as they tried to cross the sea to Greece. French authorities said cross-Channel Eurostar trains were returning to normal Wednesday after serious overnight disruptions triggered by reports of migrants running on the undersea tunnel tracks and trying to climb atop trains.
On a beach in Turkey, people pulled the bodies of migrants out of the water, including one of a little child, and clothes from migrants washed up on the sand. Six other migrants were rescued and five remained missing when two boats carrying them from Bodrum to the nearby Greek island of Kos capsized Wednesday. The private Dogan agency said the dead included a mother and three children.
The Greek coast guard also recovered the body of a man south of the tiny island of Kalolimnos. It was unclear if he was connected to the Bodrum deaths.
Hungary’s police said they intend to reinforce their positions outside the Keleti terminal as the volume of migrants arriving from Serbia grows by the hour, with an estimated 3,000 already encamped near the station. Officers working with colleagues from Austria, Germany and Slovakia, were searching for migrants traveling on Hungarian trains.
The Hungarian government did not explain why hundreds of migrants were allowed to leave Budapest by train on Monday but not Tuesday or Wednesday. It insisted it was complying with EU rules on migration.
“(Migrants) are not entitled to move freely within the European Union even after entering Hungary,” Kovacs told The Associated Press. “If the migrants don’t comply with the very basic rules that are in place in the European Union, there is no solution to this problem.”
Kovacs also defended Hungary’s 4-meter (13-foot) fence being built on the border with Serbia and the tougher migration laws it expects to enact in a couple of weeks. Those new laws allow authorities to fast-track decisions on asylum requests and make it illegal to cut through the fence or cross the border except at designated areas.
“We’re going to thwart any effort to come to Hungary by illegal means,” Kovacs said.
The clampdown has had an immediate effect in the migrants’ primary target country, Germany. German police reported Wednesday that only about 50 migrants arrived on the morning trains to Munich, compared to 2,400 on Tuesday.
The Greek coast guard, meanwhile, said it had rescued 1,058 people in 28 Aegean Sea locations over the past 24 hours. More than 200,000 migrants have reached Greece this year, chiefly from neighboring Turkey, where more than 1 million live in refugee camps fueled by warfare in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Greek police also arrested six suspected smugglers in northern Greece after finding 103 migrants, including 19 children, hidden in a truck.
In France, passengers aboard one Paris-to-London train said their service was suspended because migrants trying to climb aboard the train had damaged fire safety equipment. In tweets, passengers also described seeing migrants running along the roofs of another train near the migrant-besieged French port of Calais.
In non-EU member Iceland, a populist movement is challenging the government’s pledge to host just 50 Syrians, taking to social media to urge their government to do more. Some residents went online to commit to opening their homes to a war refugee while others urged the government to turn a disused army base into migrant housing.
Naval vessels from several nations patrolled Mediterranean waters off the coast of Libya on Wednesday in hopes of preventing more mass drownings of migrants jammed onto flimsy smugglers’ boats. A Norwegian vessel was carrying about 800 rescued migrants, including 11 pregnant women and more than 30 children, to Cagliari on the Italian island of Sardinia.
One migrant spoke wearily about missing his family.
“They call me every day and they say to me that they miss me. And I say I miss you. But there’s no way to see them,” Afghan migrant Abdullah Bakhshi told The AP as he walked along a road on the Greek island of Lesbos.
Associated Press reporters Pablo Gorondi and Bela Szandelszky in Budapest, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Elena Becatoros in Athens, Greece, contributed to this report.
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