Tensions rose in Austria on Monday as thousands of migrants entered from Hungary, unable to travel onwards to Germany after Berlin reimposed border controls.
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said that unless Austria copied Germany and reintroduced border checks itself, the country would be “completely overwhelmed within a few days”.
“We have to be aware that if we leave open (the borders), every day we will get 10,000 people who would then stay in Austria. Our geographical situation is that we are the last country, the last attractive target country, in the chain before Germany,” Kurz said late yesterday.
There appeared to be a split in the Austrian government with Chancellor Werner Faymann – from a different party to Kurz – saying yesterday that there would be no systematic controls, only spot checks.
However, the Austrian chancellor on Monday said the country’s military will be deployed to help police dealing with the influx of migrants on the country’s border if needed.
Werner Faymann said that the government approved a request from the Interior Ministry for assistance from the army, the Austria Press Agency reported.
Faymann said the army will focus on providing humanitarian help inside Austria but soldiers will be deployed to help at the borders if required.
Austria is seeing a constant stream of refugees across the border from Hungary.
Faymann is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin tomorrow, Faymann’s office said.
Overnight around 4,500 migrants entered Austria at the main border crossing point at Nickelsdorf with police saying they expected thousands more during today.
A further 3,000 also crossed at Heiligenkreuz near Graz, where police said around 500 more were arriving every hour. In recent weeks, tens of thousands of migrants have travelled up the western Balkans from Greece into Hungary and then Austria, all but a handful continuing to Germany – which has relaxed asylum rules for Syrians – and also Sweden.
A record 5,809 entered Hungary yesterday, police said today, smashing the previous day’s record of 4,330. The sharp increase came ahead of harsh new Hungarian laws coming into force tomorrow under which people entering the EU country illegally can be jailed for up to three years.
Migrants told an AFP correspondent on the Hungarian border that buses were taking them straight to train station at Szeged to go to Budapest, and not to registration camp.
[With inputs from AP]