BUDAPEST, Hungary — Angry scenes erupted outside Budapest’s main train station Tuesday morning, as crowds of angry migrants and refugees were prevented from boarding trains they hoped would take them on from Hungary toward Western Europe.
Hundreds of people who had expected to board trains to head on to Austria and Germany instead found Keleti station closed to traffic, with lines of Hungarian police officers barring their way.
Tired, hungry and frustrated, the crowds chanted, “Hungary, no — Germany, yes!”
Police and officials on the ground offered contradictory lines to journalists and migrants, with some saying the station was open while others said trains were delayed by several hours.
It’s the latest crisis point to emerge as a wave of migrants — many refugees fleeing conflict in Syria or Iraq — seek to make their way by land to Western European nations where they hope to claim asylum.
Some have been greeted along their journey by tear gas and stun grenades, while others have found themselves at the mercy of criminal gangs. In other places — including parts of Germany and Greece — there’s been a warmer welcome, with volunteers handing out food and water.
There’s little doubt that such help is sorely needed for those enduring an often arduous journey.
“We have been here five days. No food, no sleep — no place to sleep, no anything,” one Syrian refugee at Keleti station told CNN.
He and his fellow travelers had train tickets but were not being allowed through, he said.
As the young man spoke, a chant broke out calling for German Chancellor Angela Merkel — who called Monday for “a fair distribution of refugees” among EU countries to help ease the crisis — to come to their aid.
“Merkel, Merkel, Merkel, help us,” the crowd called in English.
Reka Hegedus, a spokeswoman for Keleti train station, later told CNN the station had reopened.
“It was shut this morning with no departures or arrivals for one hour at 9:30 here due to the sheer amount of migrants at the station,” she said.
“The problem is the amount of migrants with the wrong papers. Obviously, even if they have tickets, it is not enough.”
However, only those with proper documentation — that is, a valid passport, a ticket and any necessary visas — were being allowed into the station, with police checking the papers of those seeking to enter.
Hungary: Migrants must have proper documents
The latest disruption came after a day of chaos at the station on Monday, which culminated with some migrants — many of them Syrian or Iraqi — finally being allowed to buy tickets and board trains heading toward Austria after days of waiting.
Hungary has come under increasing pressure from Western European countries to change its approach to the migrant crisis.
It has been erecting a barbed-wire fence along its more than 100-mile border with Serbia in a bid to prevent migrants crossing illegally as they make their way north.
Other flashpoints have also emerged. Thousands were stranded last month in a no-man’s land between northern Greece and Macedonia, where Macedonian security forces used tear gas and stun grenades as some desperate people tried to rush the razor wire border fence.
After Macedonia, Serbia is the next staging point for many migrants on their long journey north, days after reaching Greece by boat.
While Greece is an EU state, it’s already struggling to cope with a huge influx of migrants thanks to its ongoing economic difficulties, leading many of those reaching its shores to push on in hope of a better welcome elsewhere.
Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told CNN’s “The World Right Now” that the lack of documentation was a key issue for authorities there.
“That’s one major problem we have to face: that these people at least to the Hungarian border came without papers, or got rid of papers, and at the end of the day it’s basically impossible to determine whether they are telling the truth that they are coming from Syria or other war zones,” he said.
“So that is why up until their identity is … we cannot say anything else than that they are illegal migrants.”
An earlier statement issued by Kovacs via e-mail called on Germany to clarify its position on allowing Syrian refugees into Germany from Hungary, “calling for order and legality to be restored at the borders of the European Union.”
It denied that refugees who have already entered Hungary are allowed to travel onwards freely.
“European regulations require that a person wishing to go on to Austria or Germany, for example, has the necessary documents. People at Budapest’s Keleti railway station demanding to be allowed free passage are demanding something which is not possible under European legislation,” the statement said.
Hundreds arrive in Munich
Germany’s government said last month that it expected up to 800,000 asylum seekers to come this year — four times more than in 2014.
A CNN team on the ground in Munich saw hundreds of migrants gathered at the train station Tuesday morning, some camping out as they waited for buses to take them onward.
Police said that about 400 had arrived that day so far. The flow of arrivals slowed as the day wore on, presumably because of the delays in Budapest.
Teams of volunteers handed out private donations of supplies, including fruit and water, to those waiting, who appeared to be in good spirits. Most of those to whom CNN spoke said they were from Syria.
Merkel said Monday that Germany — where some are opposed to taking in asylum seekers — must show “flexibility” when it comes to dealing with the crisis.
European Union member states agreed in July to take in more than 32,000 migrants to ease the burden on Italy and Greece, where by far the largest numbers have arrived. Another 8,000 should be allocated by the end of the year, said the European Union’s commissioner for migration.
Huge numbers make sea crossing
The European Union has been trying to find ways to ease the migrant pressure on Italy and Greece, where most migrants enter Europe — many by sea — but many EU member countries, including Hungary, have been reluctant to accept a voluntary quota.
Another is Slovakia, which said last month that it only wanted to take in Christians because it has only a tiny Muslim community and it would be hard for new Muslim arrivals to integrate.
The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain issued a statement Friday asking a special EU council to meet later this month to work on measures to better manage the influx of migrants.
Last week, in Austria, the bodies of 71 people were found in a truck abandoned by suspected smugglers. The fate of those people, who likely were fleeing war-ravaged Syria, has highlighted the risks involved in trying to reach Western Europe by land.
Many more seek to make the perilous journey by sea, boarding overcrowded, unseaworthy boats departing from Turkey or north Africa.
More than 350,000 migrants have reached Mediterranean countries by sea in 2015 so far, the International Organization for Migration told CNN on Tuesday.
This compares to a total of just under 220,000 migrants arriving by sea for the whole of 2014, according to its figures.