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Refugees arriving by train face limited checks

September 1, 2015

European authorities are checking refugee arrivals on trains in Hungary and Austria as many head towards Germany. Police have said they will not send asylum seekers back to their first EU country of arrival.

Flüchtlinge am Rosenheimer Bahnhof
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Marc Müller

From Budapest, two express trains bound for Vienna were stopped in the Hungarian town of Hegyeshalom at the border with Austria on Monday. Hungarian police searched for people who had already applied for asylum in Hungary and who were therefore not permitted to cross into Austria.

Hundreds of refugees arrived at Vienna's Westbahnhof station later in the day, where trains to Germany quickly filled with war refugees and migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries.

One train with about 400 refugees arrived in Germany in the evening, first stopping in the Bavarian city of Rosenheim near the Austrian border. About half the passengers got off the train for registration, while the rest continued to Munich. Refugees are often put into temporary housing until they can apply for asylum.

German police in Rosenheim said they would no longer search incoming trains to check identity papers. The local police station was already full with 350 refugees who needed to be fed and registered, police spokesman Rainer Scharf said.

"We can't stack these people on top of each other," Scharf told the AP news agency.

Human smugglers

In Austria, police have stepped up measures in an effort to root out human smugglers following the discovery of 71 dead refugees in an abandoned truck last week.

At a major crossing from Hungary in the Austrian town of Nickelsdorf, motorists trying to get into Austria were backed up for 50 kilometers (31 miles) as police searched trucks and vans.

Nickelsdorf's mayor, Gerhard Zapfl, criticized the crackdown and said it would simply lead to a change in tactics by criminals.

"The smugglers will now simply drop off the refugees somewhere in Hungary, who will then try to reach Austria on foot," he told Austrian press agency APA.

In Vienna, senior police official Konrad Kogler told reporters that since increased border checks began Sunday, authorities had arrested five suspected human traffickers and intercepted 200 migrants.

EU emergency meeting

An emergency meeting of EU interior minister has been called for September 14 on the migrant crisis in which more than 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean or arrived overland this year. Many are fleeing Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Afghanistan.

"If Europe fails on the question of refugees, if this close link with universal civil rights is broken, then it won't be the Europe we wished for," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday.

Earlier Germany indicated it would not enforce the Dublin accords and deport incoming migrants to the first EU country of entry, allowing war refugees to seek asylum within Germany.

jar/jm (AP, dpa)