Migrants protest in Budapest as Hungary blocks westbound travel for second day, EU vows action

Sept. 2, 2015: Migrants protest outside the Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, Hungary.

Sept. 2, 2015: Migrants protest outside the Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, Hungary.  (Zoltan Balogh/MTI via AP)

Hundreds of migrants chanted defiant slogans outside Budapest's main international railway station Wednesday as Hungarian police blocked them for a second day from seeking asylum in Germany and other European Union countries.

"What we want? Peace! What we need? Peace!" a few hundred migrants chanted outside Keleti station, the new focal point for continent-wide tensions over the continuous flow of migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa fleeing war, persecution and poverty.

Hungary's police officials say they intend to reinforce their positions outside the Keleti terminal as the volume of migrants arriving from Serbia continues to grow hourly, with an estimated 3,000 already encamped near the station. They said officers working jointly with colleagues from Austria, Germany and Slovakia also were searching for migrants traveling illegally on other Hungarian trains.

Efforts to control, curtail and protect migrants continued unabated elsewhere across Europe. French authorities said cross-Channel Eurostar train services were returning to normal Wednesday after serious overnight disruptions triggered by reports of migrants running on the tracks and trying to climb atop trains.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban is scheduled to meet EU chiefs Thursday to discuss his country's handling of its unprecedented flow this year of more than 150,000 migrants, chiefly from Syria and other conflict zones. Germany says it expects to receive 800,000 migrants this year, quadruple last year's figure, but many EU members face criticism for failing to commit to housing more asylum seekers.

In Vienna, police stopped a van crammed with 24 Afghans early Tuesday, said police spokesman Thomas Keiblinger. The van's door was welded shut and locked from the outside, leaving the passengers with no access to fresh air.

All were in good health because they had not been in the van long, although they were in "acute danger of death," he said, and the driver, a Romanian, was arrested. Last month, 71 migrants -- including three children -- were found dead in an abandoned truck left on an Austrian highway. Four people were arrested in that case, suspected of being human traffickers.

In non-EU member Iceland, a populist movement is challenging the government's pledge to host just 50 Syrians. The newly launched “Syria's Calling” pressure group said thousands of island residents had gone online over the past 48 hours to commit to opening their homes to a war refugee. Others called on Iceland to open a disused army base for migrant housing.

Naval vessels from several nations continued to patrol Mediterranean waters off the coast of Libya in hopes of preventing more mass drownings of migrants. A Norwegian vessel said it was carrying about 800 rescued migrants, including 11 pregnant women and more than 30 children, to Cagliari on Italy's island of Sardinia.

Turkish media said at least 11 migrants died and five others are missing after their boats to the Greek island of Kos capsized.

The Dogan news agency says a boat carrying 16 people sank in international waters after leaving the Turkish resort of Bodrum early Wednesday. Seven aboard drowned while four were rescued. Hours later, a second boat carrying six migrants sank off the coast of Bodrum, and a woman and three children drowned, the agency said.

Greece’s coast guard said it had rescued 1,058 people at sea in 28 incidents from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning. Those do not include hundreds who make it to the islands themselves.

The country’s caretaker government announced measures Wednesday to improve conditions for the tens of thousands of refugees and migrants arriving on eastern Greek islands, and to bolster support for the islands' residents. More than 200,000 people have arrived in Greece so far this year.

Prime Minister Vassiliki Thanou's office said the government, appointed last week to lead the country until Sept. 20 early elections, is improving staffing, infrastructure and conditions at island reception centers and is speeding up the registration process for refugees arriving in the country.

“The problem is very big. I am optimistic that a crisis will be avoided,” Migration Policy Minister Yannis Mouzalas said after a meeting with Thanou to discuss the issue.

Mouzalas said European Union and United Nations intervention was needed and insists this is a refugee, and not a migration, issue.

"There is no migration issue, remove that -- it is a refugee issue," he told journalists.