Tensions rise at Hungary station as migrant numbers swell

Budapest (AFP) - Tensions in Hungary between migrants and police rose throughout Wednesday as hundreds of mainly young men faced off against police blocking their path into Budapest's main international train station.

As the number of migrants prevented from taking trains to Austria and Germany swelled to over 2,000 at the Keleti station, according to volunteers, crowds chanted "No police! No police!" and "Germany! Germany!"

Late Wednesday, the protesters, angry at reports of police removing migrants from the station to registration centres for fingerprinting, ran up to a police line and began shouting, some throwing plastic bottles. Traffic was blocked for around 15 minutes.

The officers were quickly reinforced by riot police who donned helmets and pushed the protesters back to stop them blocking the road. No one appeared to have been hurt.

The standoff was the latest and largest in a number of tense encounters throughout Wednesday that followed Hungary's decision a day earlier to prevent migrants getting on trains, the AFP reporter said.

A day before that, on Monday, several thousand migrants had crammed onto trains bound for Austria and Germany. The government explained the U-turn by saying it was applying EU law after confusion caused by an easing of Germany's asylum regulations.

There were also outbreaks of fighting between migrants on Wednesday, while a group of far-right skinheads arrived to taunt the migrants but ran off after one received a blow to the head.

Earlier tempers rose when the police suddenly moved to clear a pathway in the "transit zone", a makeshift underground refugee camp where thousands of migrants were sitting or lying on the ground on blankets in cramped conditions, looked after only by Hungarian volunteers.

"My friends got on a train on Monday? why the hell don't they let me go too, all of us?" Ohlit, one 41-year-old furious Syrian protestor, told AFP on Wednesday.

As well as the crowds at Keleti, several hundred have been camping out at another station, Nyugati, and in nearby John Paul II square.

Early Wednesday, police closed down part of a suburban train station in Budapest, and surrounded 100 migrants travelling from the southern border who refused to board a connecting train to a refugee camp in Debrecen.

Chanting, "Germany! Germany!" and "Freedom!" the group held a sitdown protest.

- Border barrier -

Hungary has in recent months joined Italy and Greece as a "frontline" state in Europe's migrant crisis, with 50,000 people trekking up the western Balkans and entering the country in August alone.

The government of right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban -- who was due for talks in Brussels on Thursday -- has responded by erecting a controversial razor-wire barrier along its 175-kilometre (110-mile) border with Serbia.

In addition it is building a four-metre high fence and on Thursday parliament was due to begin debating a series of new laws to deal with the influx, including greater police powers and using the army at the border.

However Hungary's razor-wire barrier is proving ineffective in keeping out the tens of thousands of people trekking up from Greece through the western Balkans, with Hungarian authorities saying that 2,284 crossed on Tuesday including 353 children.

"Normal people, abnormal people, educated, uneducated, doctors, engineers, any people, we're staying here. Until we go by train to Germany," said Mohammad, a Syrian protesting at the station earlier Wednesday.

Bilal, a fellow Syrian from the divided city of Aleppo, that there is an urgency to get into Europe.

"We fear that one day everything will change, that even Germany will close the border when it has had enough. So we must make our journey extremely fast," he told AFP on Tuesday near Serbia's border with Hungary.