At the border between Hungary and Austria, the full magnitude of the refugee crisis can be felt. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their home countries this summer in search of safety or a better life in Europe. Many of these newcomers end up in border towns, waiting to continue their trips to western Europe.
"Focus Online" reporter Joseph Hausner was in Nickelsdorf, an Austrian town located right at the border with Hungary, Monday night. Here, he answers some questions about the situation at the border and the experiences of refugees who are trying to make their way to Germany.
How many refugees are arriving? On a single day, the number of refugees arriving in Nickelsdorf was seven times as much as the town’s residents."This Monday alone, roughly 12,000 refugees arrived," said Austrain Red Cross spokesman Wolfgang Pichler. Here, you would never know that there were border controls.
Where are the people staying? The original plan was for the former customs office to serve as the main refugee camp, but the number of refugees has surpassed its capacity. As a result, the Ottakringer Arena is now acting as another makeshift shelter for refugees. Nickelsdorf has already built new emergency shelters. However, there is still a shortage of space.
Where do the refugees spend the night? In the customs office, most of them sleep in one big room. The building’s sides are mostly open. A cold wind blows through the room and lets the rain in. People are practically sleeping out in the open, crammed together on the damp stone floor. The really lucky ones get to sleep in tents -- there are only 24 of them. For the rest, there are only blankets. Many children don’t even have shoes on. In addition to the cold, restlessness and noise keep them from falling asleep.
How about food? There is a food distribution point, but the queues are quite long. Yet, the volunteers are working without taking any breaks; they are making sandwiches, brewing tea and giving out granola bars and fruit.
Who's helping? On Monday, there were roughly 100 volunteers in the camp, trying to make the situation as humane as possible. All help was absolutely necessary. "Without them, nothing would work," said Pichler.
What are Austrian authorities doing about it? Not much, other than deploying federal police officers. Nickelsdorf Mayor Gerhard Zapfl criticized the "political authorities' failure." The village is now suffering the consequences.
What do the people of Nickelsdorf have to say about all this? Residents and workers are overwhelmed. The fact that their village is being exposed to the migration flow, just because of its proximity to the Hungarian border, frustrates them. But they are not complaining or being hostile; they are helping the refugees in an exemplary manner.
What will happen next? At the moment, resources are running short. They are constructing another emergency shelter -- just another stopgap measure. Many refugees have moved on to Vienna, as the rain poured down. They had to walk or take busses or taxis to cover the 70 kilometers of distance from Nickelsdorf to Vienna. In the end, they all have one goal: Germany.
All images are courtesy of Joseph Hausner/Focus Online. This post first appeared on HuffPost Germany and was translated into English. It has been updated and edited for clarity.