20,000 people gather at pro-refugee rally in Vienna

Some 20,000 people take to the streets of the Austrian capital as part of a pro-refugee rally.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA (AUGUST 31, 2015) (REUTERS) – Around 20,000 people took part in a pro-refugee rally in Vienna on Monday (August 31), calling for the fair and respectful treatment of refugees.

The protest comes just days after 71 migrants were found dead in a truck on an Austrian highway.

With many dressed in white, the protesters marched through the streets of the Austrian capital, holding candles and banners with slogans reading “Human Rights are Borderless” and “No Person is Illegal.”

“What have we heard today “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” and other similar sayings. It is about a culture of welcoming and not controlling the people who are fleeing death. We can’t solve all problems but we must be open-minded and have an open heart,” said Austrian singer and human rights activist, Willi Resetarits.

“I am here because of the people who are here asking us for help and what is most important to me is that we say that much more needs to happen. It is simply a very slow politics going on and for me there is a certain aim behind it. For me it is the fundamentals that are important, that the people go on to the street and show that they want to support, to do something, that we are prepared to take people in,” said demonstrator Claudia Renner from Vienna.

The route of the demonstration had to be changed because so many turned up to take part but a spokesperson for the police said that the change in plans was not a problem.

“The demonstration has been extremely peaceful, there have not been any incidents, reports or arrests. It was really very, very peaceful and therefore it was not a problem and so the rally is taking place in front of the parliament,” Thomas Keiblinger told Reuters TV.

Earlier on Monday, trains carrying hundreds of migrants started arriving in Vienna after Austrian authorities appeared to give up trying to apply European Union rules by filtering out refugees who had already claimed asylum in Hungary.

In the latest twist in a humanitarian and political crisis that is now testing the survival of both Europe’s open-border regime and its asylum rules, Hungary allowed the migrants, many of them fleeing Syria’s civil war, to cram into at least four trains leaving Budapest for Austria or Germany.

Many of the refugees arriving in Vienna railway station on Monday evening immediately raced to board trains heading on to Germany, as policemen looked on passively, preferring not to intervene, witnesses said.

A train also arrived in Munich from Budapest on Monday evening. German police said there were about 200 on board.

Austrian authorities have stopped hundreds of refugees and arrested five traffickers as part of a clampdown along a main motorway from Hungary against the criminal gangs exploiting the human misery following last week’s gruesome discovery of 71 dead migrants in an abandoned truck near the Hungarian border.