Hungary Thinks Flow of Refugees to West Has Peaked With AM-Refugees, Bjt
Sep. 12, 1989
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) _ Border officials monitoring entry into Hungary suggested Tuesday that the flow of refugees to the West had peaked, saying the number of East German visitors was usual for this time of year.
They sought to soft-pedal suggestions that a majority of the more than 50,000 East Germans reported on vacation in Hungary could join others who had formally requested to leave for a new life in the West.
Maj. Janos Hornyak of the border guards said 6,529 East Germans had arrived between 6:30 a.m. Monday and 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
He said that 3,220 East Germans left for home over the same time via Czechoslovakia, which is sandwiched between Hungary and East Germany.
Most entered from Czechoslovakia and the rest from Romania, he said, adding the figures were normal for this time of year.
Hungarian radio reported without sourcing later Tuesday that 750 East Germans arrived from Czechoslovakia during the afternoon and 336 left for home.
Hungarian TV said that since the start of the exodus Monday, 103 East Gemans illegally crossed from Czechoslovakia into Hungary - presumably to go west over the open borders.
Only 210 East Germans registered overnight with authorities at a refugee camp coordinating the exodus westward.
Some East Germans arriving in Hungary over the last 24 hours were presumably crossing into Austria on their own, but the low number of new registrations also indicated that the stream westward was ebbing.
Hungarian border officials said Tuesday that 16,000 East Germans crossed into Hungary during the weekend, but said this was not an unusually high number as Hungary is a popular vacation spot for nationals of several Soviet bloc countries.
They stressed that more East Germans - 26,000 - left on the weekend than came to Hungary over the same time, cautioning against thinking that each East German visitor was a would-be refugee.
The exodus to West Germany began Sunday midnight after Hungary defied a 1969 agreement with East Germany, its Warsaw Pact ally, and opened its borders for thousands who turned their back on their hard-line communist nation.
Before that, more than 6,000 fled over relatively open stretches into Austria after Hungary decided to start clearing its westernmost border of barbed wire and other barriers in May.
East Germany fiercely criticized the Hungarian move. It was the first time a Warsaw Pact country helped citizens of an allied nation flee to the West.
The East Berlin leadership on Tuesday formally protested to Hungary and asked it to stop the exodus.
Accusing Budapest of direct interference in East Germany's international affairs, the state ADN news agency said, Hungary was ''responsible for the current situation.''
Other reports in the state media suggested Hungary was bought off by West Germany, which grants all East Germans citizenship upon request. Hungarian government and Communist Party dailies emphatically denied it.
Hungarian and East German officials met for weeks trying to agree on what to do with the refugees, and Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn said Sunday the borders were opened after the talks failed.
On Tuesday, Horn told Hungarian radio the East German remarks were offensive.
As part of major reforms that include free elections planned by next June, the communist government is drafting laws giving Hungarian citizens the right to emigrate freely.
Austrian border officials also suggested that the refugee stream was ebbing.
They said more than 8,000 crossed into Austria on their way to their final destination in the first 24 hours, but only an additional 2,500 did so between Monday midnight and noon. An additional 524 crossed during the afternoon, bringing the total to slightly more than 11,000.
That exceeded by about 4,000 the number of refugees who registered to leave at seven holding camps.
The busiest of the seven Austrian border crossings Tuesday was Nickelsdorf, about 50 miles south of Vienna.
Hungary's official MTI news agency said authorities planned to close the refugee camps, but did not say when. All except one were already out of operation Tuesday. At a facility in the Buda hills, 240 East Germans arrived overnight and left for Austria on six buses at noon.
Speculation arose that East Germany would bar further travel to Hungary following Hungary's decision. But several new arrivals at Zugliget camp told reporters they were allowed to leave their homeland less than 24 hours earlier.
But one young woman, who refused to give her name, said East German border soldiers treated some of them roughly before letting them cross into Czechoslovakia.
''They searched through everything,'' she said. ''Some of us had to undress almost completely. But then we could continue on our way.''
Interior Minister Istvan Horvath said it was not up to Hungary to stop East Germans from entering and suggested, without specifically saying so, that Hungary should not stop them from leaving.
''If East Germany allows its citizens to leave the country, we certainly cannot restrict their movement,'' he told the Hungarian communist daily Nepszabadsag.