A soldier guards migrants detained after crossing the border from Serbia near Asttohatolom, Hungary September 15, 2015.
As Hungary threw up the barriers to stop thousands of refugees trekking over its border from Serbia and into the European Union, undeterred migrants on the roads simply began to think of other routes to take.
The Hungarian decision might relieve pressure on itself, but also meant that new countries on the migrants’ maps would be drawn into the crisis.
“Maybe we’ll try Croatia, then Slovenia and from there to Vienna and Germany,” said Emad, a refugee from the Syrian capital Damascus as he entered Macedonia from Greece. “I don’t know if it’s a good plan, but we have to try.”
Word of the Hungarian border closure spread quickly amongst the columns of refugees, many of whom carried mobile phones and could access social media.
Under new rules that took effect from midnight, Hungary said anyone seeking asylum at its border with Serbia, the EU’s external frontier, would automatically be turned back. Anyone trying to sneak through would face jail.
Serbia, where thousands of refugees are currently backed up trying to enter Hungary, is not in the EU. But Serbia borders Romania and Croatia, which are members. Croatia also borders Slovenia, which leads to Italy and Austria.
Buses that would normally carry migrants from Serbia’s southern border with Macedonia north to Hungary have been rerouted towards Croatia, Serbia’s Radio B92 and Blic newspaper reported.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said in Geneva that it was in touch with different countries on contingencies. Spokeswoman Melissa Fleming declined to name any countries or suggest any possible route, but added: “It’s going to be just as much a struggle as it has been for Macedonia and Greece.”
At least 200,000 migrants seeking refuge from war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa have crossed into Hungary so far this year, streaming north through the Balkan peninsula after arriving on Greek shores by boat from Turkey.
The UNHCR expected the numbers arriving at Hungary’s border to go down but the overall flow to continue until around November when the weather worsens.
Croatia was already making contingency plans for a switch in routes. A senior police official, Zlatko Sokolar, said Croatia had 6,000 police monitoring the state borders and had the capacity for 3,000 refugees.
It plans …Read More