Keleti train station in Budapest, which has emerged as ground zero in Europe’s spiraling migration crisis, temporarily shut down its services on Tuesday under the strain of an influx of migrants trying to travel to Germany from Hungary.
Emphasizing the sense of confusion across Europe, Austria’s interior minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, called on Germany, the preferred destination for many of the migrants, to clarify its stance on asylum rules.
Rows of riot police officers wearing red caps tried to contain the migrants in Budapest, and the migrants erupted in protest after the station stopped allowing them to board trains. Instead, they were allowed into the courtyard of the station, which has been transformed into a makeshift camp.
The migrants, who had been gathered since 5 a.m. in the hopes of boarding a train, chanted: “Go free! Go free! Go free!” Later, they shouted, “Merkel, Merkel,” referring to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, whose country is expected to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year.
Train services at Keleti were restored shortly after 10 a.m., and no migrants were being allowed back into the station.
The scenes of confusion and despair at Keleti underlined the challenges facing Europe as tens of thousands of migrants, buffeted by civil war and conflict in the Middle East and Syria, are trying to make the perilous journey to Europe, only to be confronted with a patchwork of policies across a 28-member bloc that is ill equipped to deal with the surge.
In the last five days, the number of migrants trying to leave from the Budapest station has grown to 2,000 a day from about 800.
The chaotic scenes at the station came as Austria asked Germany to provide guidance about how to handle asylum seekers.
The cold reception migrants received in Budapest was a marked contrast to the one in Munich, where the police said on Tuesday that about 2,500 people had arrived on trains from Budapest, via Vienna, in the span of 24 hours. Hundreds more continued to arrive early Tuesday.
Streets around the city’s central train station were blocked off to allow the authorities to organize the migrants and bring them to the city’s refugee processing centers, where they were to be registered and begin the process of applying for asylum.
Matching the flood of people was a flow of donations of drinks, food and baby necessities from Munich residents. “There is no end to the willingness of people to help — Great!” the police said on Twitter.
In Hungary, the center-right government, under pressure from a far-right anti-immigrant party with a sizable voice in Parliament, has itself aired some of the most strident anti-immigrant speech on the Continent.