Frustrated refugees and migrants at Serbia-Hungary border seek to escape poor reception conditions

Some broke through police lines and began walking to Budapest. Most remain trapped in a bureaucratic limbo, forced to wait and camp out in the cold.

Refugees sit in the sun at a collection point in Röszke near the Hungarian-Serbian border while waiting to be transported to a registration centre.  ©  UNHCR/Z.Gal

RÖSZKE, Hungary, Sept 8 (UNHCR) - It was a rallying cry and a cry of frustration: "Budapest, Budapest!"

At 5 p.m., on a back road crossing disused train tracks a kilometre from the border with Serbia, a crowd of refugees and migrants pushed up against two dozen Hungarian policemen.

They had been held at a 'collection point' after crossing into Hungary. The collection point was in fact a field, empty except for bedding and some small tents they had brought with them. A bigger tent held fruit and water which volunteers had brought and were distributing.

After spending hours, and in some cases a night, in the field, the crowd - mainly Syrians fleeing war back home - wanted to move on. Their goal was to reach Budapest and the promised lands: Austria and Germany.

Suddenly a crowd broke away and began running towards the abandoned railway tracks. Police chased after them and gently redirected them back.

Mohammed had started running while pushing a stroller with his smaller child. His wife and his older child ran beside him.

"I am telling the police I don't want to stay here. Either let us go to the camp by walking, or let us go free to go to West in buses or taxis."

Ten minutes later they pushed through the police lines and began running towards a pre-registration centre two kilometres away. The police let them run and then set up a cordon to direct them to the centre. But at least 200 broke through again and raced to the highway. They started walking to Budapest, 170 kilometres away.

The others were persuaded, with the help of an Arabic translator, to walk to the centre as dusk was closing in. But it was already full, and for another night hundreds of people would have to camp on the ground. A man on crutches and a woman in a wheelchair prepared for the night in the cold. A woman seven months pregnant pleaded to be let inside, but there was no room.

A man with two small children repeated the general complaint. "We must leave as soon as possible simply because living here without tents, without blankets, is too difficult."

Back down the road the 'collection point' was again full with several hundred newcomers who had crossed the borders in the previous four hours. Volunteers arrived to hand out food. UNHCR provided tents and blankets.

In the dark, a volunteer doctor who had come from Austria sat on a blanket and treated patients who complained of fevers and cuts. Volunteers came ready to hand out food. And dozens of new arrivals - people who had crossed from Turkey and moved through Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia - were ushered into the makeshift compound.

By the end of the night, 2,700 refugees and migrants had crossed into Hungary.

The numbers mount and the authorities are all but submerged by them.

By Don Murray in Röszke, Hungary