Austria, Germany open borders to migrants offloaded by Hungary

Austria & Germany have opened their borders to thousands of migrants bussed to the Hungarian border.

ustrian policemen block the motorway A4 near the Austrian-Hungarian border near Austrian village of Nickelsdorf on 5 September 2015 from where refugees will take a train to Vienna. Picture: AFP

HEGYESHALOM, HUNGARY/VIENNA - Austria and Germany threw open their borders to thousands of exhausted migrants on Saturday, bussed to the Hungarian border by a right-wing government that had tried to stop them but was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers reaching Europe's frontiers.

Left to walk the last yards into Austria, rain-soaked migrants, many of them refugees from Syria's civil war, were whisked by train and shuttle bus to Vienna, where authorities prompted arranged for thousands to head straight on to Germany.

German police said the first 1,000 of up to 10,000 migrants expected on Saturday had arrived on special trains in Munich. Austrian police said over 6,000 had entered the country by midday with more expected in what has become Europe's most acute refugee crisis since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Munich police said Arabic-speaking interpreters helped refugees with procedures at emergency registration centres. The seemingly efficient Austrian and German reception contrasted with the disorder prevalent in Hungary.

"It was just such a horrible situation in Hungary," said Omar, arriving in Vienna with his family.

In Budapest, almost emptied of migrants the night before, the main railway station was again filling up with new arrivals but trains to Western Europe remained cancelled. So hundreds set off by foot, saying they would walk to the Austrian border, 170 km away, like others had tried on Friday.

After days of confrontation and chaos, Hungary's government deployed over 100 buses overnight to take thousands of migrants to the Austrian frontier. Austria said it had agreed with Germany to allow the migrants access, waiving asylum rules that require them to register in the first EU state they reach.

Wrapped in blankets and sleeping bags against the rain, long lines of weary migrants, many carrying small, sleeping children, got off buses on the Hungarian side of the boundary and walked into Austria, receiving fruit and water from aid workers. Waiting Austrians held signs that read, "Refugees welcome".

"We're happy. We'll go to Germany," said a Syrian man who gave his name as Mohammed, naming Europe's famously biggest and most affluent economy that is the favoured destination of many refugees. Another, who declined to be named, said: "Hungary should be fired from the European Union. Such bad treatment."

Hungary insisted the bus rides were a one-off, even as hundreds more migrants gathered in Budapest, part of a seemingly unrelenting human surge northwards through the Balkan peninsula from Turkey and Greece.

By contrast, the Austrian state railway company OeBB said it had added 4,600 seats for migrants by extending trains and laying on special, non-scheduled services.

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Hungary, the main entry point into Europe's borderless Schengen zone for migrants, has taken a hard line, vowing to seal its southern frontier with a new, high fence by 15 September.

Hungarian officials have portrayed the crisis as a defence of Europe's prosperity, identity and "Christian values" against an influx of mainly Muslim migrants.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday Hungary would deploy police forces along its border with Serbia after 15 September and the army too if parliament approves a government proposal.

"It's not 150,000 (migrants coming) that some (in the EU) want to divide according to quotas, it's not 500,000, a figure that I heard in Brussels, it's millions, then tens of millions, because the supply of immigrants is endless," he said.

For days, several thousand camped outside Budapest's main railway station, where trains to western Europe were cancelled as the government insisted all entering Hungary be registered with asylum applications processed there as per EU rules.

But the logjam broke on Friday when, in separate rapid-fire developments, hundreds broke out of a teeming camp on Hungary's frontier with Serbia, escaped a stranded train, and took to the highway by foot chanting "Germany, Germany!"

The government appeared to throw in the towel, mobilising a fleet of buses to take them to the Austrian border.