By Krisztina Than
Some 300 migrants broke out of a Hungarian border camp on Friday and hundreds of others set off on foot from Budapest as police scrambled to keep control of a migrant crisis that has brought Europe’s asylum system to breaking point.
Police said they had given chase and halted traffic on a nearby motorway after the migrants broke out of the Roszke reception centre on Hungary’s southern border with Serbia. They said another 2,300 migrants still inside were threatening to break out too.
In the capital, lawmakers moved to amend migration laws effectively sealing the southern border to a wave of migrants, many of them refugees from the Syrian war, voting to create “transit zones” where asylum seekers would be held until their requests are processed, and deported if denied.
The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has vowed to take control of Europe’s worst migration crisis since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, sealing itself off to a flow of migrants that has topped 140,000 this year.
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.
But Budapest’s hard line has produced scenes of chaos and desperation this week; on Friday, hundreds were spending a second day stranded in a train west of Budapest, demanding passage to Germany and refusing the demands of riot police that they disembark and go to a nearby migrant reception centre.
In Budapest, hundreds among at least 1,000 camped out at the Keleti railway station set off on foot through the capital, saying they would walk to Austria after Hungary this week cancelled all international trains to western Europe, a Reuters photographer said.
The European Union has removed normally allows free movement between the 26 countries of its Schengen border-free zone, but its rules require asylum seekers to register in the first country where they arrive and remain until they are processed.