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Refugees Are Allowed Back On Hungarian Trains


NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is in Hungary, where, for the past week, migrants have been prevented from boarding trains. But just this morning, they are being allowed on trains again.

Eleanor, you are at the railroad station in Budapest. Where are these trains going?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Well, Linda, they are so far going to the border. No one is allowed to buy a ticket beyond the border of Hungary and Austria. So I, myself, am going to take a train. I bought a ticket to Vienna. And they say I have to change trains at the border. So we'll see if the migrants are allowed to change, too. I've spoken with some this morning.

They're worried. They're trying to get to Germany, so they want to go to Vienna. And we'll see what happens. But I can tell you the situation has improved here. It was crowded with just hundreds and thousands of people, families camped out. And that has pretty much disappeared because people are being allowed to move and the border is no longer being blocked.

WERTHEIMER: Aren't people supposed to be able to move freely through the borders in the European Union?

BEARDSLEY: Linda, they are. And that's one of the core principles of the European Union - freedom of movement. And this crisis is throwing all that into question. Because the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban closed his border and he says he's going to close the border with Serbia, he is compromising that whole principle of freedom of movement and this has caused the problem. So Germany and Austria said that they would accept these refugees to free up the backlog. But, yes, once you're inside the EU, you should be able to move freely in this no-passport zone.

WERTHEIMER: What about refugees then? Are they not considered European Union citizens? What is their status?

BEARDSLEY: Of course they're not. And they want to come here and restart their lives and apply for asylum. And this is putting another principle of the EU into question, is how they deal with asylum-seekers. An accord - part of the constitution of the EU - reached in 2003 says that refugees who want to apply for asylum, they do it in the country in which they arrive. But the problem, Linda, is ten of thousands of migrants are only arriving in two or three countries - Italy and Greece. Those are the front-line countries and they cannot possibly bear the burden of all of the migrants. So there are calls now within the EU to share this burden, that other countries take more migrants in.

WERTHEIMER: And some of the big Western countries have said yes, but some of the Eastern countries have said no, so far.

BEARDSLEY: Absolutely. This crisis - this massive crisis is exposing an ugly underside. There is not a lot of solidarity in Europe right now. Many countries are doing their part, but then you have other countries who say, no, thanks, we don't really want to be a part of that. We can't afford to take any migrants in. And as the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said - she said the migrants are here to stay. We have to adjust to a new reality. We have to show solidarity.

WERTHEIMER: The union has a meeting scheduled. Are they - what are they going to do? Just lay out plans, try to reach some sort of an agreement?

BEARDSLEY: Absolutely, there is a big important meeting on September 14. And so far, the French, German and Italian governments have put forth a new plan which does call - it emphasizes solidarity and quotas and the sharing of asylum seekers and that each country take a reasonable number that corresponds with their GDP and their population, so that it can be evened out. And so I think this is the path they're going to try to take. And we'll see if all of the countries are going to be on board with that.

WERTHEIMER: Eleanor Beardsley, thank you very much.

BEARDSLEY: You're welcome, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley. She's reporting this morning from the railroad station in Budapest. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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