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Packed Onto Trains, Migrants Make Orderly Entrance Into Austria


The flow of migrants into Europe continued today as desperate people flee Syria and other troubled spots in the Middle East and Africa. There was some relief over the weekend as thousands of migrants who were stuck in Hungary were allowed to leave. Many are hoping to go to Austria, Germany and other wealthy countries in Western Europe. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley took a train loaded with migrants out of Budapest today and bound for Austria. She joins us now from Vienna. Eleanor, describe the trip. How was it?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Arun, it was surprisingly orderly. Migrants were allowed to buy tickets. They got on board the trains. Now, the trains didn't go all the way to Vienna. They stopped at the border, and we had to get out and go to an Austrian train. So there was a little bit of confusion in Budapest because the provincial Hungarian town we were going to, you couldn't quite figure out where the - which train went there. And so officials weren't very helpful. But at the border, when we changed trains, all the citizens had come out again with food, you know, boxes of food - bananas, apples, sandwiches, water - but also clothing and shoes. So it was like a used clothes bizarre there on the train platform before the next train went off. And people were trying on coats and shoes and all sorts of things like that because it is starting to get colder now, so it was good that they came out with those clothes.

RATH: Tell us about some of the conversations you had with people on the train.

BEARDSLEY: Yeah, it was fascinating. We had, you know, time to talk. They were really happy to be going. One woman told me she couldn't wait to learn German. But I heard a lot about the hazards of the trip, you know, like the ruthless smugglers that nobody can get by. You have to go through smugglers at one point or another. One guy told me - he said I wanted to change my mind about getting in a raft in Turkey to go to Greece. He said it was for 25 people, and they had 65 people in it. He said, but the smuggler forced him in at gunpoint and threw away his bag and everybody else's 'cause I said what do you pack for a trip like this 'cause he walked for, like, 20 days. And he said, well, it all got thrown away by the smuggler anyway.

And then I heard a lot about unscrupulous taxi drivers, especially the Hungarian taxis. They're even afraid to be kidnapped. And I met one 25-year-old man from Daraa, and that's where the Syrian revolution started. And he came on this trip with friends. He said there were 15 of them, and now there's only six of them. And here's what Qais Alzoubi said about the taxis.

QAIS ALZOUBI: You use the taxi smuggler, you don't know where is he taking you. My friends, I didn't hear from them yesterday, and I don't know where are they now. I saw them when they get in the taxi, but they didn't make it. And I don't know where are they now.

RATH: Eleanor, what are European leaders saying about what happens from here?

BEARDSLEY: Well, there's confusion, no cohesion, no solidarity, you know, countries - Germany, France and Italy are going to put forward a plan where solidarity - every country must pull its weight, you know, share some of this burden. But some of the smaller countries in the east, they don't want to. So there's no clear roadmap right now - what they're going to do. But today, Germany and Austria said that they cannot keep this border open like this - 14,000 people, Arun, crossed from Hungary into Austria this weekend alone. And that's not going to be able to continue. And one man from Afghanistan told me he heard the border was going to be closing soon, so he came very fast from Macedonia to make it through. So it seems like this is a really special window.

RATH: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Vienna, Austria. Eleanor, thank you.

BEARDSLEY: You're welcome, Arun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
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