As fast as Hungary plugs its frontier with Serbia with a steel wall, refugees are arriving at its weak points before it becomes unassailable to get into the EU.
The message has got out that this route will soon be closed, so the numbers arriving have leapt. It is time to cross over, before it is too late. The desperation is leading to clashes with police.
“I want a country to be part of, I want a country to belong to, I want a culture, a civilisation, it is not for money or for food, it is for freedom, freedom of mind, freedom of education, to be part of the civil world,” said one young Syrian man.
The route north to Germany and Scandinavia, the favoured destinations, is long, dangerous and costly. Most have nothing left by the time they get this far. It has been spent or stolen on the way. There is no going back.
“I know that the European Union is trying everything but they can try more. At least about this situation here in Hungary, so maybe they can push the Hungarian government to let us go,
just like that. Nobody wants to stay in Hungary, believe me,” says another Syrian man, again in excellent English.
Two thousand extra Hungarian police have been ordered to the border, where tear gas was fired on Wednesday morning in scenes of near-panic.
For the moment Europe appears to be playing catch-up with a problem it is only belatedly recognising, and struggling to come to political terms with. It is a problem that is likely to confront the EU for years to come. Finding the right responses to the challenges is proving difficult.