ZAKANY, Hungary (Reuters) - Hungary may consider opening a “corridor” for migrants to pass through from Croatia by train or bus if Austria and Germany want one and take full responsibility, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday.
As Janos Lazar spoke, Hungarian police and army troops were out in force in Zakany, on the border with Croatia, where a train station designed to handle cargo has settled into a routine of processing thousands of arriving migrants each day.
Since last week thousands of migrants have been shipped through Zakany to Austria. Croatia brings migrants by train or bus to their side of the border where Hungarian police and army units await them.
Migrants wait in line near the tracks to board the trains next to big rusty gasoline containers. Once the train is full, it departs and another train arrives.
The entire process is recorded and sent via live link to the Defence Ministry, a policeman at the station told Reuters. Two stationary cameras and a drone flying overhead record the entire process amid a heavy police presence.
There was no sign of anxiety among migrants on Thursday as they knew they were headed straight to Austria, from which most are likely to make their way to neighbouring Germany like many thousands before them. When the interpreter told them, “Nobody would be left behind,” they broke out in loud cheers.
A landlocked nation of 10 million, Hungary lies in the path of the largest migration wave Europe has seen since World War Two. It has registered more than 240,000 migrants this year, the vast majority of whom move onto Germany or northern Europe.
The route of migrants journeying northwards through the Balkans from Greece shifted to Croatia and Slovenia after Hungary sealed off its border with Serbia earlier this month.
Hungary’s right-wing government has pledged to protect Hungarian borders and the European Union’s external frontiers in response to the migrant influx. The fence built along its boundaries with Serbia and Croatia and the government’s tough regulations on illegal migration served this goal, Lazar said.
Lazar said that if Hungary’s measures are not accepted by the EU then new ways must be found, and Slovenia and Austria have both used the corridor solution to handle mass migration.
“If Austria and Germany want this and take responsibility for this along with other EU members, the Hungarian government will consider the ... possibility of creating conditions for migrants arriving from Croatia to the Hungarian border ... to move on in regulated circumstances,” he added.
Lazar said this, however, must not pose a “security risk” to Hungary. Orban will hold a meeting of the national security cabinet later on Thursday, and state news agency MTI said he would pay a visit to Austria on Friday.
Orban’s right-wing government has clamped down on illegal border crossings this month: the high steel fence on the Serbian border has reduced inflows of migrants to a trickle there.
However, migrants are now flooding in from Croatia. Just on Wednesday, Hungary recorded over 10,000 migrants crossing its borders based on police data. Hungary could close off its border with Croatia, once the fence is standing.
At Zakany, a train car with one end covered in razor wire coils was parked at the train station on Thursday. A similar carriage was used to plug the rail border crossing at Roszke on the Serbian border last week.
Hungary, along with the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia, has opposed the plan to distribute migrants among the 28 EU member states agreed by a majority vote of EU interior ministers on Tuesday.
Lazar said the migrant quota system approved in Brussels is “seriously flawed” and Hungary is considering challenging the decision in court. “The quota proposal is a typical example of moral imperialism which Germany forces upon Europe,” he said.
Writing by Krisztina Than; Editing by Mark Heinrich