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Austria implements border controls

September 16, 2015

Austria has tightened controls at its border with Hungary, but has said that migrants will still be allowed to enter and be processed. The introduction of passport checks at the German frontier has led to a backlog.

Österreich Salzburg Hauptbahnhof Flüchtlinge Polizei Grenze
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Gindl

Austria on Wednesday tightened border controls at the country's frontier with Hungary, as authorities struggled to deal with the bottleneck created by Germany's reintroduction of checks at its border to Austria.

The Austrian measures, which came into effect from midnight, were said to be temporary and in accordance with EU rules to "maintain public order."

The Austrian Press Agency (APA) reported that between 2,500 and 3,000 people were still leaving Austria for Germany on a daily basis. However, Deputy Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner said there was still a "backlog."

One train left Salzburg for Munich with 700 migrants on board on Tuesday evening. Trains were also said to be taking migrants direct from Vienna to the Bavarian city of Passau, and further north - bypassing both Munich and Salzburg.

The migrants "will be able to continue onwards," Mitterlehner said. "Just not in the same concentrations as we saw before."

Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said no one fleeing war or persecution would be turned back to Hungary, despite the introduction of controls at the border. Mikl-Leitner told public broadcaster ORF that Syrians and others in danger could continue to ask for asylum in Austria or travel on to Germany.

Salzburg mulls station closure

Austrian authorities said late Tuesday that the main train station in Salzburg might have to be closed because of the large numbers of migrants arriving and seeking to travel on to Germany. Officials described the situation as "tense," with migrants arriving by means other than rail.

"The biggest problems are being created at present by the large number of people being brought privately in cars and buses," said a statement from the state of Salzburg.

"If this continues in this manner, a closure of the main train station may become necessary as a last resort," it added, citing safety concerns as the reason.

Bucharest blasts Budapest

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta slammed Hungary for planning to erect a wire fence along part of its border with Romania, to slow the flow of migrants. Hungary sealed the border on Monday night, with the completion of a 450-kilometer (280-mile) fence along its southern border with Serbia, and said it would extend the barrier a "reasonable" distance along its frontier with Romania.

Ponta said Tuesday that the fence plans show that Hungary "in the heart of Europe, has political decision makers which are no better than those in Syria, Libya or other countries that refugees flee from."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Austrian counterpart Werner Faymann on Tuesday demanded Tuesday a European Union summit to address Europe's migration crisis.

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rc/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)