By Rodi Said and Krisztina Than
A Syrian father on Friday buried his wife and two little boys, drowned as they tried to flee to Europe, while Hungary’s right-wing leader told Europeans they risk becoming a minority on their own continent.
With desperation and anger deepening among migrants escaping conflict and poverty, hundreds broke out of a Hungarian camp and others set off on foot from Budapest, hoping to find sanctuary in northern Europe.
In neighbouring Austria, police said the driver of a truck found abandoned last week with the bodies of 71 migrants in the back was among a group of people arrested in Hungary.
Dozens more narrowly avoided death by using a crowbar to escape from another truck owned by the same Bulgarian man, they said.
More than 300,000 people have crossed to Europe by sea so far this year and more than 2,600 have died doing so. Many of those making the voyage are refugees from the civil war in Syria, now in its fifth year.
In the latest report of deaths at sea, about 30-40 people drowned in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya after a dinghy carrying 120-140 Somalis, Sudanese and Nigerians deflated, causing panic on board, the International Organization for Migration reported.
In the Syrian town of Kobani, 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi was laid to rest alongside his mother and 5-year-old brother at the “Martyr’s Cemetery” in the predominantly Kurdish community near the Turkish border.
Images of the tiny body of Aylan washed up on a beach near the Turkish resort of Bodrum gave a human face to the high death toll and prompted a global outpouring of sympathy this week. He drowned with his brother Galip, his mother and at least nine others while trying to cross in two small boats to the Greek island of Kos just a few kilometres away.
While pressure is rising on European governments to tackle the crisis more effectively, the boys’ weeping father, Abdullah Kurdi, called on countries closer to home to act.
“I want Arab governments – not European countries – to see (what happened to) my children, and because of them to help people,” he said in footage posted online by a local radio station.
The head of the United Nations’ refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, called on Friday for the European Union to mobilise its “full force” to help the migrants.
AIR FOR ONLY 90 MINUTES
Hungary has become a major flashpoint of the crisis, as the main entry point for migrants who reach the EU overland across the Balkan peninsula, bound for richer countries further north and west, particularly Germany.
In Austria, police said the 71 dead migrants found alongside a motorway near the Hungarian border last week were Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan nationals, but not a single one of them had been identified. They included a baby girl, her brother, two other children and eight women.
There was enough air inside the truck for no more than 90 minutes and the people appeared to have slowly lost consciousness, suffocating before they crossed from Hungary. The driver was among five people arrested in Hungary, they added.
In southern Hungary, police gave chase as about 300 migrants fled the crowded reception centre in Roszke on the border with Serbia. Another 2,300 migrants still inside were threatening to break out too, and the MTI state news agency said dozens more had fled a second camp west of Budapest in the town of Bicske.
Hungary says it is enforcing EU rules that it must register all migrants caught crossing its borders, but thousands are refusing and demand they be allowed to continue their journey to western Europe. Germany has said it will let Syrians register for asylum regardless of where they entered the EU, causing confusion among neighbouring countries who have alternated between letting them through and stopping them.
In Bicske, around 500 migrants were spending a second day stranded on a train at the local railway station, refusing the demands of riot police that they disembark and go to a nearby migrant reception centre.
“No camp. No Hungary. Freedom train,” someone had written with shaving foam on the side of the train. Sanitary conditions were deteriorating fast in the late summer heat.
The U.N. refugee chief’s appeal contrasted with the tough line from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who warned about the consequences of “a mass inflow of people”, which he said could possibly number tens of millions.
Guterres said the EU needed to help more migrants enter legally and provide about 200,000 relocation places, according to a preliminary estimate, as well as provide more support to countries under pressure such as Greece, Italy and Hungary.
“It now has no other choice but to mobilise full force around this crisis. The only way to solve this problem is for the Union and all member states to implement a common strategy, based on responsibility, solidarity and trust,” Guterres said.
NO OTHER CHANCE
Only a few days after Aylan Kurdi and his family set off on their fatal voyage, more Syrian refugees were planning the same crossing to the Greek island of Kos.
“We saw the picture of the baby, (but) we have no other chance,” said 36-year old Abdulmenem Alsatouf, a father of three who once ran a supermarket in the Syrian city of Idlib.
Hungary’s parliament passed a series of laws on Friday to control the flow of migrants into the country, giving police more authority and setting out strict punishments including prison terms for illegal border crossing.
The arrival of so many migrants has polarised Europe, causing outpourings of sympathy but also fuelling the rise of populist political parties who say the continent has no room for more people and could see its cultures diluted.
“The reality is that Europe is threatened by a mass inflow of people. Many tens of millions of people could come to Europe,” Orban said before Hungary’s new laws were passed.
“Now we talk about hundreds of thousands but next year we will talk about millions and there is no end to this.”
“All of a sudden we will see that we are in a minority in our own continent,” Orban told public radio.
With the pressure growing, British Prime Minister David Cameron said his country would take “thousands more” refugees from Syria. Until now, Britain has taken in only comparatively small numbers of Syrian refugees, drawing criticism at home and aboard.