Thousands of refugees sit on the dirty mats that have come to define Budapest’s grand Keleti station. Many have travelled the now risky Balkan route through Macedonia, Serbia, and finally Hungary, hoping to link up with family and friends in Germany and Austria.
Travelling into Hungary is becoming increasingly fraught.
The once safe route into the wealthy northern EU countries is now policed with dogs and border guards and fenced off with barb wire.
Serbian police turn a blind eye to those willing to brave Hungary’s new wire corridor, but the Hungarian forces are less forgiving.
Each passenger heading by train from Belgrade to Budapest is scrutinised at the Hungarian border, passports are vigorously inspected and Schengen visas are now prerequisite for the thousands using the Balkan route north.
Dogs rush up and down the carriages as vents are taken apart. Every space that could hide a body is dissected.
For those who present themselves, Serbian camps in Subotica near the Hungarian border are just another road block, but only for a short time.
As Amer, a young ethnic Palestinian from Damascus I met on the train to Budapest put it: “I have been arrested four times but I’m still going to try.
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"Turkey was bad but in Greece the police were kind to me, they picked me up and took me off a road because it was a place where thieves work. Im not afraid.”
Amer’s story is a sad tale of Middle Eastern upheaval: “The men in my family have no luck. My grandfather had to leave Palestine in 1948, my father in 1967, and now in 2015 I guess it’s my turn.
"I was born a refugee in Syria, I hope I wont die one.”
Amer, a qualified architect, tells me his home was destroyed by a mortar bomb.
He’s 27 but looks 18.
After hearing of camps in Serbia and the bottleneck at the station in Budapest, he decides to avoid the capital and exit the train before Budapest.
He wants to enter Hungary under the newly erected fence near Horgos at the Serbian border.
A few hours later, I get a text message.
Amer was caught by the police but still plans on reaching Budapest and then into Munich.
But for now Keleti station is simply an end point for those wishing to transit north.
Yesterday morning, hundreds clamoured on trains they expected to lead towards the promised land of the Austria.
But Keleti is no longer part of the path to freedom.
Hungarian authorities have blocked the trains to Austria and Germany plugging the flow north.
Migration Aid, a volunteer groupin Keleti, say between 3,000 and 3,500 refugees are stuck at the station and, of that number, between 800 and 1,000 are children.
The mood in Keleti is uncertain.
The promise of movement is faded but from speaking to those on the dirty mats, the horrors they have escaped provide an inextinguishable driving force.
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