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In Hungary, Migrants Wait To Travel West

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Austria has halted all trains from Hungary this weekend after 45,000 migrants crossed the border earlier this week. Thousands of migrants still want to leave Hungary before emergency laws take effect on Tuesday, so they're streaming into Budapest's main train station, from which Lauren Frayer reports.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Hundreds of migrants are waiting to buy tickets to villages in western Hungary. From there, they can walk across the border to Austria. Among those waiting in line is Osama Salah from Syria, traveling with his two daughters, aged 4 and 6.

OSAMA SALAH: Now two children, no mother, no wife - dead, dead (foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: "My wife was killed by ISIS five months ago, so I took our daughters and fled," he says. "We took a boat from Turkey to Greece, and we fell into the sea. I had to hold my daughters afloat in my arms." Salah recounts his story while standing in the ticket line, after dark, in the rain, holding his little girls' hands. Then, a Hungarian stranger approaches and offers Salah free train tickets.

KISSANA SZABO: People who can afford, they buy tickets and others come here and give to those who need them.

FRAYER: Kissana Szabo is a volunteer taking ticket orders from people online who want to help, then she goes around handing them out to migrants in need.

SZABO: There are many of us doing this, so we have shifts. I'm here for two hours, and I got, like, 30 tickets from the person who was here before, but the codes are arriving by text message and...

FRAYER: Salah is incredulous. His little girls squeal with delight. They'll be able to get on a train to the Austrian border tonight.

SALAH: (Foreign language spoken) Ticket - very happy, very happy because...

FRAYER: "I've spent all my money on this trip," he says. "That woman was so thoughtful." The kindness this family has received from ordinary Hungarians is in stark contrast to the treatment they received from Hungarian police in a camp on the Serbian border just a few days ago. Salah and his daughters were locked up for three days with thousands of other migrants and refugees, as understaffed police working 18-hour shifts tried to fingerprint them all.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: Video recorded by an aid worker in the same camp shows Hungarian police tossing bread rolls at migrants behind metal fences, like cages. Desperate people scream and climb the fences to reach for the food. Hungary's right-wing prime minister accuses migrants of rebelling against Hungarian law. He's deployed 3,800 soldiers to the Serbian border, where a military operation is expected this Tuesday, so migrants are trying to get out before that.

Every two hours at Budapest's Keleti Station, hundreds of migrants make a mad dash for the train platform. Among them was Perween Aloo, a Kurdish refugee from Syria, who's nine months pregnant.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Where will your baby be born?

PERWEEN ALOO: (Laughter) I wish in Germany. I wish that.

FRAYER: Her due date is this weekend. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Budapest. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.