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Desperate migrants storm Budapest station after two day stand-off

Chaos erupted as crowds of people burst into the flashpoint station and rushed towards a standing train.

Updated at 11am

HUNDREDS OF MIGRANTS stormed Budapest’s main international rail station after police reopened it this morning, in an escalating refugee crisis seared into European hearts by horrifying pictures of a drowned Syrian toddler.

Chaos erupted as crowds of people burst into the flashpoint station and rushed towards a standing train, with Hungarian police seemingly absent following a two-day standoff with migrants trying to head to Germany and Austria.

The scenes of confusion in a deeply divided European Union came as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban held urgent talks in Brussels on dealing with the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

“There is a divide… between the east and the west of the EU,” EU President Donald Tusk said ahead of the meeting with Orban.

“Some member states are thinking about containing the wave of migration, symbolised by the Hungarian (border) fence. Others want solidarity in advocating a so-called obligatory basis for (refugee) quotas” to re-distribute refugees.

Later he said that member states should to accept at least 100,000 refugees between them to ease the pressure on ‘frontline’ countries.

“Accepting more refugees is an important gesture of real solidarity. Fair distribution of at least 100,000 refugees among the EU states is what in fact we need today,” Tusk told a press conference.

Hungary Migrants A young child cries as hundreds of migrants try to board a train at the Keleti Railway Station in Budapest. Source: Associated Press

The EU is riven by frictions between transit nations where the migrants arrive by sea or land – mainly Greece, Italy and Hungary – and those where they hope to seek asylum, mainly in northern and western Europe.

France, Italy and Germany urged a rethink of European asylum rules to ensure “a fair distribution” of migrants throughout the 28-member bloc, as tensions soar between European states over how to tackle the huge influx.

Elsewhere on the political front today, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is expected to discuss the migrant crisis with French President Francois Hollande as he begins a two day visit to France, in Paris.

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In Britain, where Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has accepted just 216 Syrian refugees and a lower number of asylum-seekers in proportion to its population than most EU countries, tens of thousands of people signed petitions demanding change.

Pressure for change was increased by the images of a tiny child lying face down in the surf at one of Turkey’s main tourist resorts, putting a human face to the dangers faced by tens of thousands of desperate people who risk life and limb to get to Europe.

Hungary Migrants Migrants hold up young boys covered in blankets in front of the Keleti Railway Station in Budapest. Source: Associated Press

The stand-off

In Hungary, a key arrival point for tens of thousands of migrants entering the European Union, with some 50,000 entering the country in August alone, Budapest’s Keleti station has become a symbol of the crisis.

Hungary allowed several thousand to board trains bound for Austria and Germany on Monday, but the following day the station was closed to anyone without an EU passport or a valid visa.

The move left around 2,000 men, women and children stranded around the station or in a makeshift refugee camp beneath the station and scuffles broke out between police and migrants on Tuesday.

Today, hundreds tried to get on board one train, pushing, shoving and fighting with each other to get on, after the station reopened.

A public announcement said however that no trains for western Europe would be leaving “for an indefinite period”.

Hungary Migrants Police guard the station yesterday Source: Associated Press

The situation is also becoming increasingly desperate on Europe’s sea borders after a dramatic spike in the numbers of migrants leaving Turkey by sea for Greece over the past week, among them the tiny toddler whose death has caused such outrage.

Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch’s director of emergencies, said the Syrian boy and others who drowned with him were “the latest victims of Europe’s paltry response in the face of a growing crisis.”

EU leaders cannot agree on how to redistribute refugees around the bloc, with rules that migrants must apply for asylum in the first country that they land in adding to the disagreements.

EU ministers will hold a special meeting in Brussels on September 14 on the crisis.

- © AFP 2015 with reporting by Daragh Brophy.

Read: Distressing images of drowned Syrian toddler highlight tragedy of migrant crisis

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