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Austria opens border to migrants

September 4, 2015

Austria and Germany have agreed to open their borders to migrants coming in from Hungary. The announcement comes after the Hungarian government sent buses to pick up migrants walking along a highway toward the border.

Migrants walking along Hungary highway at night
Image: Reuters/L. Balogh

In a surprise announcement on Friday night, the Hungarian government said it was sending buses for the migrants walking along the highway towards the Austrian border.

Buses are also being sent to pick up hundreds of other migrants at Budapest's main railway station.

"We are taking this step so Hungary's transportation is not paralyzed during the next 24 hours," said Janos Lazar, chief of staff for Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

"This does not automatically mean that they can leave the country," Lazar added. "We are waiting for the Austrian government's response."

In a post on his Facebook page on Friday night, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann wrote that Austria and Germany had agreed to let migrants in Hungary cross their borders.

"Because of today's emergency situation on the Hungarian border, Austria and Germany agree in this case to a continuation of the refugees' journey into their countries," Faymann said in the post.

Lazar said that Orban was expected to speak with Faymann on Saturday morning.

After waiting for two days to board trains headed for Vienna, about 1,200 migrants started to walk out of Budapest earlier Friday and on to the main highway toward Hungary's western neighbor, Austria. The distance is 171 kilometers (106 miles).

A further 300 migrants who were walking along train tracks westwards from Bicske are to be offered the bus trip to Hegyeshalom as well. People on a train they thought was bound for Vienna had been stopped on Thursday in the small town just west of Budapest and were told to transfer to a migrant camp.

The offer of bus transport from the government does not apply to people who are in migrant camps in Hungary, Lazar said.

Earlier in the day, Hungary increased penalties for illegal border crossings.

jm/cmk (EFE, Reuters, AP)