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Hungary Closes Budapest Train Station To Migrants


Hungary has barred undocumented migrants from traveling on trains to Germany, reversing yesterday's decision to let them go. That has left hundreds of people - most of them from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan - stranded without shelter in the Hungarian capital, Budapest. Joanna Kakissis begins our coverage from there.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Malek Hibab is a middle-aged computer technician from Damascus, Syria, who used to work in Dubai and sent money to his family back home. But when the war began, he was not allowed to bring the family to Dubai. So he quit his job and became a refugee headed for Europe.

MALEK HIBAB: I try to bring my family to where I work - cannot bring. For four year, I wait, I wait, I wait - now I try this, to bring my family to Germany.

KAKISSIS: Hibab spent 36 hours waiting in a long, chaotic line inside the oven-hot Keleti train station in Budapest to buy a ticket to Munich. But then the station was abruptly closed to migrants. Police now guard the entrance to keep them away. Hibab feels hopeless, stuck in a country that does not want him. Around him, entire families are camped out, lying exhausted on cardboard boxes.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in foreign language).

KAKISSIS: Some are protesting. Hundreds face the police and chanted Almania, the Arabic word for Germany. Yildiz Ahmad joined them. She's a mother of four from Aleppo, Syria. Her husband and two older children are already in Germany. She's been stuck in Hungary for six days with a younger son and an infant daughter, who's sick with eye and skin infections from sleeping outside. She says the Hungarian government is trying to frighten people for seemingly no reason.

YILDIZ AHMAD: Frightened - people fright. They don't want people traveling. If he wants, he can. The police can.

KAKISSIS: Hungary wants the migrants out. The nationalist government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban is building a barbed wire fence on its border with Serbia where migrants enter. Hungary sent hundreds of people out on trains on Monday without registering them, something that angered neighboring Austria. But a few Hungarians came to the train station bearing clothes, blankets and water. That was small comfort for Yildiz Ahmad, the mother from Aleppo. She sat on her cardboard box at the station as night fell, cradling her baby. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Budapest. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.
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