refugee crisis

"My toes hurt, a lot of blood, we walked too much" - Pain along the long trek to Europe

Migrants and refugees have begun arriving at the Austrian border from Hungary.

Updated 3.04

Hungary Migrants Frank Augstein Frank Augstein

THOUSANDS OF MIGRANTS have streamed into Austria from Hungary on Saturday, in what Vienna called a “wake up call” for Europe.

“This has to be an eye opener how messed up the situation in Europe is now,” Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said as Europe struggled to get to grips with its biggest refugee influx since World War II.

“I hope that this serves as a wake up call that (the situation) cannot continue.”

Austrian police said that 4,000 people crossed the border during the night and on Saturday morning, with the number predicted to rise later to 10,000.

Their arrival followed the decision by Hungary, which has become a flashpoint in the crisis, to bus thousands of migrants stranded in Budapest for days to the Austrian border.

Austria Hungary Migrants Migrants rest as they arrive at the Hungary to Austria border. Frank Augstein Frank Augstein

The packed buses, in which people were strewn across the floors, using bottles for pillows, departed all through the night.

Hungary laid on the buses after around 1,200 migrants set out on foot from Budapest for the Austrian border, 175 kilometres (110 miles) away, and after large numbers escaped from refugee camps.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto blamed Saturday the “failed migration policy of the EU and … irresponsible statements made by some European politicians.”

Austria Migrants Kerstin Joensson / PA Images Kerstin Joensson / PA Images / PA Images

Berlin urged an end to “recriminations” as the UK said it would take in thousands more Syrian refugees — but only directly from camps, not those already in overstretched Hungary, Greece and Italy, who are demanding their EU partners do more to help.

Ruptly TV / YouTube

Nickelsdorf where authorities had set up a makeshift shelter.

“The streams (of people) keep coming,” Hans Peter Doskozil, chief of police in Burgenland state, who was at the border, said Saturday morning.

Looking exhausted but happy, most boarded special buses and trains to Vienna, to take trains bound for Salzburg and from there continue to Munich, or other services running to other German cities.

German police said they expected up to 7,000 of the migrants to reach German territory Saturday.

In Vienna, the migrants, some carrying sleeping children and many wrapped in blankets, were greeted by large numbers of volunteers handing out food, drinks, sanitary products and train tickets.

Hungary Migrants Buses with migrants queue at the border to Austria. Frank Augstein Frank Augstein

‘Shameful treatment’

“My toes hurt, a lot of blood, we walked too much. I want to go (to) Germany, but then I stop,” said one 26-year-old Syrian man from Homs, both his feet wrapped in thick bandages.

One refugee held up a big sign saying “Austrians Danke schoen” (“Austrians thank you”).

“After endless examples of shameful treatment by governments of refugees and migrants in Europe, it is a relief to finally see a sliver of humanity,” said Amnesty International’s Gauri van Gulik.

“But this is far from over, both in Hungary and in Europe as a whole. The pragmatic and humane approach finally applied here should become the rule not the exception.”

Austria Hungary Migrants Migrants arrive during heavy rain at the Hungarian-Austrian border. Frank Augstein Frank Augstein

EU foreign ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss the crisis ahead of a “State of the Union” address next week by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, when he will lay out new measures that could well exacerbate divisions in the bloc.

Juncker has proposed mandatory quotas for resettling 160,000 refugees, after an earlier plan for 40,000 met stiff opposition, notably from Hungary, and attracted offers of places for only 32,000.

Germany and France back the system but Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia together rejected any quotas in a statement on Friday.


Meanwhile, the Irish boat LÉ Niamh rescued 329 in the Mediterranean Sea at around 4pm this afternoon.

The 317 men, 11 women and one child are receiving food, water and medical attention as the boat heads to Pozallo.

© – AFP 2015

Read: Asylum and refugees: How Ireland compares to the rest of the world >

Read: Syrian family laid to rest as Taoiseach says we can take in more refugees >

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