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World

Budapest Opens Rail Station But Suspends Train Service To The West

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have scenes of human catastrophe this morning. People have heard plenty about migrants or refugees leaving North Africa and the Middle East in search of shelter in Europe. What is different this morning is a series of stories that make it hard not to feel what is happening. Let's start in Europe, in Hungary, where authorities are trying to stop people flowing through. They want to stop refugees and migrants from boarding westbound trains, and today some migrants rushed a train station. Reporter Joanna Kakissis is at that station, and she is on the line now. What happened?

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Well, there was a line of police here for days who were guarding the station, and they left this morning. So the people who were waiting here - the refugees and migrants- decided to storm the first train they could. It was their chance to get out of it - get to where they really want to go, which is Germany. The people were really trying to force themselves onto the train. They were removed immediately, but they did try to go. But then what happened is the board changed, and all trains to Western Europe were canceled. That means even the trains that the people were try to get on were not going to Western Europe. They were going right back to Serbia and to Romania and to other countries east. So right now people are stuck here, and everybody that I pass says, does this train go to Germany? Do you know? Do you know? They're still wondering what's going on.

INSKEEP: The people who are obviously not going to be getting on trains today, where are they staying? Are they on the streets of Budapest?

KAKISSIS: Yes. There are hundreds of people who are staying downstairs in the basement area where you can transfer from the train to the Metro. It's become a de facto refugee camp. There are also people staying above the train station, just outside the stairs - either sleeping outside in tents, on their clothes, on cardboard boxes. And everybody here thinks that because earlier in the week, people were allowed to travel on trains - they were allowed to buy tickets to travel on trains to Austria and Germany - that this is going to happen again. But Prime Minister Viktor Orban, says, no, we've got to secure our borders because that's what we do as the European Union. We've got to secure our borders first and then deal with the migration issue.

INSKEEP: I just want to keep us oriented on the map here. These are people who began in Syria or Libya or other troubled places, have already made it somehow across or around the Mediterranean through several countries. They've made it to where you are in Budapest, Hungary. They were hoping to go further north. What shape are they in having come so far already?

KAKISSIS: Everyone is totally exhausted. People have not slept for days. They've not showered for days. You see people sitting on stairs trying to sleep. Some people are leaning against walls trying to take a nap. You see babies sleeping on the ground. People are really, really tired. They need a shower. They need sleep. And they just want to get out of here.

INSKEEP: Reporter Joanna Kakissis is in Budapest. Joanna, thanks.

KAKISSIS: You're welcome, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.