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One Man Dies As Hundreds Attempt to Flee Detained Train in Hungary

Elsewhere in Hungary, hundreds broke out of a border camp while others set off on foot from Budapest as authorities scrambled to contain the refugee and migrant crisis.
September 4, 2015, 6:00pm
Photo via Reuters

A Pakistani man died as hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers fled a train station in the Hungarian town of Bicske on Friday afternoon after the train had been prevented from leaving the station for about 24 hours.

According to authorities, the man died about a half mile from the station after falling on the train tracks and hitting his head in the midst of about 350 people were fleeing, ITV News reported. According to the media outlet, police said they were not running after the escaping migrants.

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The incident came after hundreds of people broke out of a Hungarian border camp earlier on Friday and others set off on foot from Budapest toward Austria and Germany. Authorities were scrambling to contain a refugee and migrant crisis that has pushed Europe's asylum system to the breaking point.

Related: Inside the Abandoned Paris High School Currently Housing 250 Migrants

Police said they had given chase and halted traffic on a nearby motorway after about 300 asylum seekers fled a crowded reception centre in Roszke on Hungary's southern border with Serbia. They said another 2,300 migrants still inside were also threatening to break out, while the MTI state news agency said dozens more had fled a second camp west of Budapest in the town of Bicske.

Hungary says it is enforcing European Union rules that require the registration of all migrants caught crossing Hungary's borders, but thousands are refusing, instead demanding they be allowed to continue their journey to western Europe. Many are refugees from Syria who are escaping more than four years of civil war in the country that has left more than 200,000 people dead and forced millions to flee.

In Bicske, a small town located about 18 miles outside of the capital city, about 500 migrants were spending a second day stranded on a train at the local railway station, refusing the demands of riot police that they disembark and go to a nearby migrant reception center.

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"No camp. No Hungary. Freedom train," someone had written with shaving cream on the side of the train. Sanitary conditions appeared to be deteriorating quickly in the late summer heat.

Video taken at the train station earlier in the day on Friday shows a line of people protesting their police from behind a fence following an attempt by authorities to take the people off the train in order to be transported to a reception center.

Refugees am Bahnhof in — Klaus Werner-Lobo (@olobo)September 4, 2015

The government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has vowed to seal the country off within days to a flow of migrants that has topped 140,000 this year. Hungary has become a flashpoint in the crisis as the main entry point into the Europe's Schengen zone of passport-free travel for migrants traveling over land across the Balkan peninsula to reach richer countries further north and west, above all Germany.

Lawmakers moved to tighten migration laws that the government says will cut illegal entry to zero as of September 15 by creating "transit zones" on the border where asylum seekers will be held until their requests are processed, and deported if denied. The measures introduce jail terms for those who cross the border without permission or damage a fence that Hungary is building along its 108-mile border with Serbia.

But Budapest's hard line has produced scenes of chaos and desperation this week, symbolic of the discord and recriminations within a divided Europe over how to respond.

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In Bicske, migrants on the train told police that women and children in their group would leave for the border on foot on Saturday if the train is not allowed to continue its journey. The European Union normally allows free movement between the 26 countries of its Schengen border-free zone, but its rules require asylum seekers to register in the first country where they arrive and remain there until they're processed.

The group reportedly got on the train on Thursday, believing it was heading to Austria.

"We don't know what's going on," said 60-year-old Ahmed Mahmoud, who told Reuters he was a former Iraqi military officer who had lost both legs and was trying to join his daughter in Belgium. "The police told us, 'Get fingerprinted or face jail time.' So we gave our fingerprints and they told us we can go. But we can't go to the West. I just want to see my child in Belgium."

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people have been camped outside Budapest's Keleti railway station after Hungary this week cancelled all trains to western Europe. A group of between 400 and 500 migrants, led by a Syrian man, marched through the capital, saying they too would walk to Austria — a 300 mile journey.

Video from Friday shows a crowd of refugees and migrants marching from Keleti through the streets of Budapest. The marchers claimed they were heading toward the border with Austria, Vienna their intended destination. Police reportedly accompanied the migrants as they made their way along the street.

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— Nabih (@nabihbulos)September 4, 2015

Women,kids,elderly among those walking from — Benjamin Novak (@b_novak)September 4, 2015

Orban took to the airwaves to defend his country's stance, saying Budapest was defending Europe's Schengen zone from a huge influx of refugees and migrants. Hungary has hit out at Germany, which expects to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year, for saying it would accept requests from Syrians regardless of where they entered the European Union, contrary to EU rules. Orban's government says this is spurring the flight, which he said poses a threat to Europe's "Christian values."

"Now we talk about hundreds of thousands, but next year we will talk about millions, and there is no end to this," Orban said on a regular Friday interview radio broadcast. "All of a sudden, we will see that we are in a minority in our own continent."

Related: Drowned Syrian Toddler Is Buried in Kobane

He said "everyone" should prepare for September 15, when the new measures adopted by parliament would be in place and the army would potentially be defending the border.

"Serbia, Macedonia, the immigrants, the human traffickers," he said. "We ourselves will prepare for this, and a different era will start from September 15."

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