Migrants stream into Austria from Hungary
NICKELSDORF, Austria (2ND UPDATE) – Thousands of exhausted migrants streamed into Austria from Hungary on Saturday, after Vienna and Berlin agreed to take in thousands of refugees desperate to start new lives in Western Europe.
"I am standing right at the border to Hungary and am looking down. The streams (of people) keep coming," Hans Peter Doskozil, the chief of police in Burgenland state, told the Austria Press Agency, adding that up to 3,000 people had cross by early on Saturday.
Buses and trains were to whisk the refugees to Vienna and towards Germany, he added, with one train having left the town of Nickelsdorf, carrying 400 people.
The refugees began arriving at the Austrian border in the night after Hungary, which has become one of the newest flashpoints in Europe's migrant crisis, began bussing people who had been stuck in the capital Budapest.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants have been making often perilous journeys to Europe this summer, most of them trying to reach countries in Western Europe, particularly Germany, which has said it will no longer deport Syrian refugees and will take in 800,000 people this year. (READ: Chaos in Hungary as figures show gravity of Europe migrant crisis)
Berlin urged an end to "recriminations" as Britain said it would take in thousands more Syrian refugees -- but only directly from camps, not those already in overstretched Hungary, Greece and Italy, who are demanding their EU partners do more to help.
The human cost of the crisis was exposed this week with the publication of photographs of three-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi as his body was washed up on a beach in Turkey after his family tried to cross into Greece.
The photo of the lifeless toddler sent shockwaves across the globe, galvanizing public opinion and sending contributions to refugee and children's agencies soaring.
Austria has converted a concert hall in Nickelsdorf into a makeshift shelter for the arriving migrants, with law enforcement and workers from the Red Cross waiting to receive them.
Some 600 beds have been made available in Nickelsdorf for the new arrivals and neighbouring regions have also mobilised to ensure they are provided with food and medical care, he said.
'Next stop Austria'
Some 50,000 migrants entered Hungary last month via the western Balkans, with a record 3,300 arriving on Thursday, according to United Nations figures.
Hungary has responded with tough new anti-immigration measures, including by criminalising unauthorised border crossing and any damage to a razor-wire fence recently erected along the border with Serbia.
Right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban sparked anger by saying his country did not want more Muslim migrants and warning that Europe would lose its Christian identity.
"We are very happy that something is happening at last. The next stop is Austria. The children are very tired, Hungary is very bad, we have to go somehow," 23-year-old Osama from Syria told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) as he set off from Hungary.
Poor camp conditions and slow registration procedures for asylum-seekers appear to have contributed to rising tensions at Hungary's refugee facilities.
Earlier Friday, about 300 people had broken through a fence at a Hungarian refugee camp and clashed with police, while another 300 escaped from a collection point for migrants intercepted at the border.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres warned Friday the 28-member EU faced a "defining moment" and called for the mandatory resettlement of 200,000 refugees by EU states.
In a tragedy that has brought home the urgency of the crisis, Abdullah Kurdi, the father of Syrian toddler Aylan, returned home Friday to the border town of Kobane to bury his two sons and wife.
The family were driven out of Kobane in June after fierce fighting between Kurdish militants and Islamic State jihadists.
EU foreign ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss the crisis ahead of a "State of the Union" address next week by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, when he will lay out new measures that could well exacerbate divisions in the bloc.
Juncker has proposed mandatory quotas for resettling 160,000 refugees, after an earlier plan for 40,000 met stiff opposition, notably from Hungary, and attracted offers of places for only 32,000.
Germany and France back the system but Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia together rejected any quotas in a statement on Friday.
If some governments are wary, many ordinary Europeans were taking the initiative and providing all the help they can, from social media campaigns in Austria to street protests urging government action in Spain.
Charities across Europe reported a surge in donations from people shocked by the heart-rending images from Turkey – donations had more than doubled.
"There is an enormous response from the public," Christian Peregrin, spokesman for the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station, told AFP. "The tide of indifference is shifting." – Peter Murphy, AFP/Rappler.com