Refugee Crisis: Hundreds willing to walk 180km to ‘better place’

Hundreds of refugees stranded in Budapest’s Keleti station left for Austria on foot as trains to northern European countries remained suspended.

Despite the high temperatures, Syrians, Afghans and Somalis packed up their meagre belongings and gathered in front of the station to a backdrop of whistling and calls for “freedom”.

Some have been here a few days, some longer. The situation in Keleti seems hopeless after a train supposedly destined for Austria stopped kilometres from the city — causing a standoff between refugees and Hungarian police.

Amal and her children Pesan, 8, and Suhiaib, 6, fled Damascus to follow her husband to Sweden.

“I don’t mind walking. In Syria they are shooting people and cutting heads off. I’m not safe in my own house and there is no future for my children.”

“Everyday we call him on Whatsapp or Viber and he cries. He is so worried,” she said.

Refugees and Hungarian police officers face off at a reception centre in Roszke, Hungary, yesterday. About 300 people broke out of the reception centre near the southern border between Hungary and Serbia earlier

Amal is determined. In Syria she was a primary school teacher but her school has been closed for six months.

“The children stay in the house with me. There are terrorists everywhere. For three months we had no water, we have no money, no food. Assad’s people killed my brother-in-law. They shot him and now my sister’s three children have no father. I didn’t want that for my family,” she said.

Amal is walking from Keleti to “the better place — Austria is good” with her two children in the intense midday heat.

Despite many families with young children choosing to remain in Keleti, Amal is braving the journey. Her little boy Suhiaib struggles to carry his backpack and it is almost unimaginable how this six-year-old will manage the 180km trek to Austria.

“Hurry, hurry” she calls as we rush ahead with her daughter Pesan weaving her way through the traffic with a broken bag and a tiny sleeping bag.

The journey will take days and the men are impatient. They are shouting to hurry up, nervous about arrests.

Yesterday a man started shouting in the station, urging people to leave the station by foot. “We must go as one,” he urged.

His actions could be timely. Earlier a group of skinheaded football fans arrived into the station chanting nationalist slogans. The police encircled them and they stayed for over 40 minutes. Eventually they left, roaring as the exited.

“Who are those people?” asked Salah, a 16-year-old travelling alone from Aleppo.

The decision to walk to Austria comes after days of disappointment and fear of being confined to Hungary’s dreaded migration camps. Those travelling north worry about lack of water, food and being fingerprinted in a country they are desperate to leave.

Amal and her two small children left on a bridge that divides Buda and Pest.

“Tell Ireland I said hello and that all people are good, just governments are bad. Maybe some day — when things are better — you can come to Damascus and see Syria.”

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