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Some Hungarians Aid Migrants Waiting Outside Budapest Train Station


The main train station in Budapest has turned into a de facto refugee camp. Thousands of asylum seekers are stuck there, blocked by the Hungarian government which won't allow them to continue their journeys. Most of them are trying to get to Germany. Hungarian officials who allowed refugees to board trains earlier this week now say EU rules forbid undocumented migrants from traveling onward. Joanna Kakissis is in Budapest and reports it's not just the migrants who are frustrated.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Anett Bosz is a young activist in Hungary. She is standing outside the train station where hundreds of people from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq are camped out. Bosz says the confusion shows a complete failure of the European Union on what she calls a humanitarian crisis.

ANETT BOSZ: It means that we are completely liars because we say that Europeans are the biggest humanitarian fighters. We cannot let people to die in a van.

KAKISSIS: Seventy-one refugees and migrants suffocated recently in a smuggler's van and were discovered on an Austrian highway. Others are trying to avoid using smugglers as they try to get to Germany. Syrian cousins Abdul Rahman and Mahmoud Alshama (ph), both in their 20s and from Damascus, say they wish they could just get on a train and out of Hungary where they're homeless.

ABDUL RAHMAN: We need a shower and sleep - very, very tired here, yeah.

MAHMOUD ALSHAMA: I'm sleep in the street. I'm stay - I'm sleep in the streets.

KAKISSIS: Bosz shakes her head as she listens to their story. We walk down stairs to the ground floor where people transfer to the city Metro. But the area is packed with refugee families sleeping on the floor.

BOSZ: It used to be a transit, so - and now they're simply too much. So they need more space - wow.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Nice to meet you.

AYA: Nice...


AYA: Nice to meet you.

BOSZ: Nice to meet you too (laughter). I'm so happy to meet you, really.

KAKISSIS: Bosz greets a young refugee from Hama, Syria, named Aya. As they talk, a Hungarian teacher named Bori Toth appears holding a big bag of fruit and bottled water.

BORI TOTH: We would like to help. We need to help, you know? Do you see what is here? It is incredible. And we must help. Everybody must be helped.

KAKISSIS: But she says the situation is a disaster.

TOTH: Have you seen a train station like this? Have you ever? It is horrifying. We cannot believe what is happening, and every day, it's changing.

KAKISSIS: Behind Toth are a group of medical students from Austria and Germany. They're wearing surgical gloves and stethoscopes, and they're checking the legs of three Syrian toddlers with terrible skin rashes. The children have not bathed in days. One of the medical students is Thomas Schuh from Vienna.

THOMAS SCHUH: There's just too many people concentrated in one point without any proper hygienic resources - no toilets, not enough water, not enough food.

KAKISSIS: And the situation is only expected to get worse. Greece is seeing record numbers of refugees and migrants arriving from Turkey, and most are heading north to Germany. That means they have to transit through Hungary to get there. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Budapest. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.