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Authorities Stop Migrants In Budapest From Rail Travel

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Budapest, Hungary, hundreds of migrants spent the night stranded outside that city's main train station after being prevented from boarding trains that would've taken them to other European countries. Many had already spent several days sleeping at the station. Hungary says it is simply enforcing border control after allowing thousands of migrants to board trains the day before to the chagrin of Austria, where many were headed. Reporter Joanna Kakissis join us now from Budapest. Good morning.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Tell us what the scene was last night because you had all these migrants. They'd bought tickets, figured they were on their way.

KAKISSIS: Yeah, everyone bought a ticket. They'd been waiting in line all day in this very, very hot station in super long lines. And then yesterday, all of a sudden, they said, sorry, we're closing the station to you. You have to wait outside. You can't board any more trains. And so the station became sort of a de facto refugee camp because everybody just set up camp outside. So the scene now is, well, you've got, you know, hundreds of people sleeping outside on cardboard boxes, you know, with their babies, waiting for some word from the Hungarian government on what's going to happen, if they can board the train or if they're going to have to do something illegal like go talk to a smuggler to get them across, which is something that most of them don't want to do.

MONTAGNE: And who's in charge of this big group?

KAKISSIS: No one appears to be in charge. We've got police guarding the entrance, so people with tickets and European passports can go in. But there's this big line of police, saying, no, no, if you're a migrant, you can't move. You have to stay right there. And so they're controlling, you know, the entry into the station. And then you've got some volunteers coming, dropping off clothes, saying, you know, here, do you want a change of clothes? Do you want some water? Do you want some baby food? Do you want some diapers? But you don't have any big aid organizations there, at least yet. So the situation is somewhat chaotic. It's just a lot of people very confused, hoping to get out, and a few people have also protested and said we want to go to Germany. We don't want to stay here, anyway. Please just let us go.

MONTAGNE: And Joanna, I gather you also ran into a man that you and other NPR correspondents have been following since he left Turkey. And he's there in Budapest, stuck. Tell us more about him.

KAKISSIS: His name is Mansur Omar (ph). He's a 33-year-old teacher from Hama, Syria. He's the father of two small little girls, and he was drafted into the Army. He doesn't want to kill anybody, so he just left. His wife said get out of here as soon as possible. So what he's doing is he's on his way to Germany, where he's trying to get asylum, and where Germany will allow him to also bring his family, which is in hiding in Syria. So he's trying to get there as soon as possible because as he's making this journey, he's not only worried about himself and whether he's going to survive it, he's worried about his family and what's going to happen to them in Syria. I've been with them for the last three days, and he's become increasingly tired. He's trying to make a decision, but he can't make a good one because he's so sleep-deprived. And he says he was so upset and so disappointed that he couldn't get on this train. He had the money to pay for the train ticket, but then they just shut the doors, basically, in his face. So he's been sitting outside the train station right now looking despondent, texting his wife, and trying to tell her that everything's OK. But you know, it's not. He doesn't want to pay a smuggler to go anywhere because he's afraid. He's afraid that the smuggler's just going to leave him on the side of the road and die, which is what some smugglers did in Austria recently.

MONTAGNE: Well, we will, of course, be continuing to follow this story as it progresses. Joanna, thanks very much.

KAKISSIS: You're welcome, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Joanna Kakissis speaking to us from Budapest, Hungary. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.