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Politics & Government

Hungarian Police Attempt To Force Migrants Into Refugee Camp

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It was another dramatic day in Hungary, where crowds of asylum-seekers are trying to leave the country by train and get to Germany. This morning, a large group of migrants boarded a train they believed would take them close to the border with Austria. But the train was stopped at a country town - Bicske - an hour outside Budapest, and the migrants were told that they were being taken to a nearby camp for processing. There were scuffles with police as people refused to leave the train. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley has been watching events through the day and joins us from the scene. Eleanor, where are you, and what are you seeing?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Well, Robert, right now, I'm at that little provincial train station in Bicske, and I'm sitting on the platform, looking at this train. And it's now dark, and the windows are lit up. And I see the families inside - small children, women, young kids, men - families sitting up in the train windows. They're refusing to get off this train. All around are Hungarian police, different kinds of police. Some seem like riot police. They have helmets.

SIEGEL: And what have the migrants said about how they got there?

BEARDSLEY: Well, you know, the train station in downtown Budapest has been cordoned off. The migrants haven't been allowed in in two days, so this morning, they were. And despite announcements in English and Hungarian that no trains were leaving for the West, this train had an actual engine with the German flag on it, and it was painted as a 25th anniversary of the wall coming down. And it actually said, celebrating 25 years of open European borders. So they got on this train, believing it was going to Germany, and it only went about 20 miles to the West.

SIEGEL: To the town that you're at right now.

BEARDSLEY: Yeah, It did. It stopped in the middle of nowhere, and they've been sitting here all day long in these cramped train cars in the heat and now in the darkness.

SIEGEL: And even though you've described the train, I'm assuming it was still a Hungarian train. This was a Hungarian decision to stop at the town.

BEARDSLEY: It was a Hungarian train, and the Hungarian passengers - I wasn't here yet - were taken off this train and allowed to board other trains. But the migrants were then told they were being taken to a camp, and that's when they rebelled. One father even laid on the tracks, and he said, I will not go. He was arrested and then, they were allowed to go back into the train, and they've been sitting here all day. And they refuse to get off.

SIEGEL: As you said, though, you can actually see these people inside the train that's standing still at the station. What are conditions like for those people, those families inside the train?

BEARDSLEY: Well, Robert, it must have been horrible because the sun was scorchingly hot today. I can't even imagine. I see them in there now. There's got to be some relief from the temperature, but I don't - at one point, the police brought out water, and they threw it back. The man said - the man who came out - he said it could have been drugged. Water has been brought out again by some NGO workers, some humanitarian workers, but they haven't had much to eat.

SIEGEL: And what did the Hungarian authorities say about all this?

BEARDSLEY: So, Robert, today, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, spoke, And he said that Europe had no plan to deal with these migrants, but he was not going to let them come marching through Europe. He said they've threatened the Christian roots of Europe. And you know, Hungary has built this razor-wire fence on its border with Serbia. He said he would extend that fence and even send the Army down to the border to keep these migrants from coming in. Yet, it's very confusing because he doesn't want to seem to let them leave Hungary, either.

SIEGEL: What about Hungarian citizens? Yesterday, we heard about good Samaritans at the Budapest train station helping the refugees. What about in this provincial town at the railroad station?

BEARDSLEY: Right. Well, I did speak with one man from this town, and he said about 70 percent of the people here do agree with authorities. They don't want to see these migrants here. This man was ashamed. He drew a rather grim parallel, Robert. He said putting people in trains and making them believe they're going somewhere they're not is reminiscent of World War II, and he said he was ashamed to be a Hungarian today.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Bicske, Hungary. Eleanor, thanks.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.