Croatia closed all its border crossings with Serbia Friday in an effort to halt the flow of refugees seeking a way to Western, Central, and Northern Europe.
Croatian police tell the Associated Press that some 13,300 refugees had entered the country from Serbia since Wednesday, when Hungary completed a razor-wire fence to keep the flow of migrants under control.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio Friday that his country has started building a razor-wire fence along a stretch of its border with Croatia to keep migrants from entering the country in that area. Orban said the first phase of the 25-mile barrier will be completed on Friday, with coils of razor wire in place before an actual fence goes up. The prime minister added that he is deploying hundreds of soldiers and police to prepare the fence and defend the border.
Despite the border closures, Sky News reported Friday that refugees were arriving by bus at the Serbian border town of Sid and walking through cornfields to cross the border into Croatia.
Meanwhile, aid groups fear that refugees turned away at the Hungarian border may try to cross Croatian minefields in their bid to reach western Europe. There are estimated to be between 60,000 and 100,000 landmines left over after the Balkan wars of the 1990s covering a 310-square mile area across Croatia
Thursday night, Croatia’s Prime Minister insisted his government does not have the resources to hold back those who want to travel on to Western Europe, and the nation’s army is now on alert.
In a clear message to those continuing their journeys through the Balkan states, Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic added: “Don’t come here anymore. Stay in refugee centers in Serbia and Macedonia. This is not the road to Europe. Buses can’t take you there. It’s a lie.”
Many of the refugees entering Croatia try to travel on to Slovenia, but that country’s police force has vowed to send back anyone who attempts to cross its borders.
On Thursday, armed Croatian police initially contained 2,000 migrants who had gathered at Tovarnik railway station after being told transport was available. Children were in tears as they struggled to cope with the crush and, unable to maintain control, the guards eventually had to let hundreds of people through in the afternoon.
One man was seen passed out on the ground.
Sky News Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay, said: “They overran …Read More
HORGOS, Serbia — Hungarian police officers moved against hundreds of migrants on Wednesday, attacking them with batons, water cannons and tear gas after they tried to surge through a border crossing that had been blocked for a second day.
The migrants tore down a razor-wire gate on the Serbian side of the border crossing, and were pushing through to a second gate on the Hungarian side when the riot police drove them back. Twenty people were injured, including two children who had been thrown across the fence into Hungary, and taken to a hospital, the authorities said.
But the migrants soon started fires and threw rocks toward the police officers, who then came at them with batons, beating their way through the crowd. The clash followed two days of frustration for the migrants, some of whom arrived here soon after Hungary imposed tough new laws on Tuesday to prevent their passage into the country, and enforced the laws with armed police officers at a reinforced border with Serbia.
It was the first major clash on the land route from Turkey since Aug. 21, when the Macedonian police used stun grenades to break up a group of migrants trying to cross the border into their country from Greece.
Already some of the migrants who had reached the crossing had given up and peeled off, heading for new routes through Croatia and other countries on their journey west, where they hope to apply for asylum in places like Germany and Sweden.
But about 2,000 remained behind, still hoping that Hungary would reconsider, as it had done once before, and let them pass to Austria, on buses or by train.
By late afternoon, the calm, almost-festive atmosphere at an informal encampment at the closed crossing point grew increasingly tense, and hundreds of migrants pressed the border.
“Open! Open! Open!” the migrants chanted. About 50 riot police officers formed a barrier. A vehicle armed with water cannons stood nearby. Military helicopters hovered overhead.
Interactive Feature | Video: My Days With the Migrants
The police fired tear gas. Many of the migrants gagged and poured water over their eyes to stop the sting, but the action drove them back.
Throngs of young men then set trash and wood on fire. Others hurled blocks of charred wood and stones at the fence, and at the police officers guarding it.
The police appeared to pull back, and suddenly the …Read More
HORGOS, Serbia — The latest developments as European governments rush to cope with the huge number of people moving across Europe. All times local (CET):
Romania’s foreign ministry has summoned Hungary’s ambassador to Romania to express criticism about a fence Hungary plans to build on the border with Romania to deter migrants.
The ministry said it had called in Botond Zakonyi to officially protest the planned fence and a series of comments made by Hungarian officials in recent days.
The foreign ministry said Romania and Hungary had cooperated well on border and police matters in the past “and consequently we should have a joint analysis of the situation.”
The ministry said it had declined to receive a note of protest from the ambassador about the situation.
Serbian doctors say two people have been seriously injured and between 200 and 300 have sought medical help after Hungarian police used tear gas and water cannons to stop migrants from entering the country.
Dr. Margit Pajor from the medical center in Kanjiza, near the border with Hungary, said that most of the migrants suffered cuts, bruises and burns or eye problems caused by tear gas.
She says that “they were lining up so we wash their eyes or put bandages.”
Pajor says two people have been sent to a nearby hospital, one of them with a serious head injury.
Serbia’s prime minister has condemned the “brutal treatment” of migrants by Hungarian police and warned the neighboring country not to fire tear gas onto its territory again.
Aleksandar Vucic, speaking from the U.S. while on an official visit, said he would raise the issue in a meeting Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Vucic also said there must be an EU response to clashes between migrants and Hungarian police, who used tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons against hundreds of people at the Hungary-Serbia border.
Hungary’s prime minister says the country will build a fence on some sections of its border with Croatia, an alternate migration route into Western Europe some migrants have begun to use.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in an interview published in the online edition of Germany’s Die Welt newspaper that “we will also have to extend the fence to the Croatian border.”
Hungary’s nearly completed fence on the border with Serbia has impeded the flow of migrants.
Hungary …Read More
By William Booth and Robert Samuels,
HORGOS, Serbia — locked by Hungary’s new border fence, the river of migrants and refugees began to change course Wednesday and move west toward Croatia in a desperate gambit to forge a new route to Western Europe.
The shift highlighted both the resolve of the asylum seekers — many fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq — and the growing friction within Europe in the absence of a coordinated policy for the unprecedented influx.
“Barbed wire in Europe in the 21st century is not an answer, it’s a threat,” complained Croatia’s prime minister, Zoran Milanovic, in a direct jab at the blockades by neighboring Hungary.
He told lawmakers in Zagreb that Croatia would “accept and direct” the migrants to transit the country — comments that are likely to ripple through the social media networks used by the refugees and increase the march toward Croatia.
Just steps from Hungary, thousands of people spent the night in the wet grass on the Serbian side of the border. On Tuesday, a group of refugees stormed the barricades begging for water or food.
They were met only with an announcement in Arabic blared from a loudspeaker: “We are not opening the border!”
Serb officials, meanwhile, warned the European Union that their cash-strapped country could not host large numbers of destitute travelers — many seeking ultimate haven under the generous social programs of countries such as Germany and Sweden.
Regional bus companies had begun offering refugees a trip from the Macedonian border in the south directly to Croatia, local reports said.
[The limbo of the no man’s land]
Reuters reported one of its cameraman saw at least 100 migrants walk through cornfields into E.U. member Croatia. Most traveled by bus from Macedonia; others pulled up in taxis, the news agency said.
After shutting down the main corridor for refugees to Central Europe and fortifying its border with 109 miles of razor-wire fencing, Hungary on Wednesday began prosecuting migrants who tried to sneak across its frontier.
At least 174 were detained as the country drew its line in the sand. Its get-tough approach to the European refugee crisis created an immediate bottleneck and howls of protest.
Hungary’s move was condemned by neighboring countries, humanitarian organizations and migrants, who staged spontaneous demonstrations along the newly erected fence.
Yet …Read More
HORGOS, Serbia — Hungary declared a state of crisis along its border with Serbia early on Tuesday, detaining at least 155 migrants and threatening to prosecute and imprison others trying to enter the country illegally from Serbia, while at least 22 migrants, including four children, drowned when their 65-foot wooden boat capsized in the Aegean Sea while they were trying to reach the Greek island of Kos.
A day after officials from European Union member countries failed to find a substantial collective approach to the crisis, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Chancellor Werner Faymann of Austria called on fellow leaders to gather next week in Brussels for an urgent summit meeting on the situation.
Responding to criticism of Germany’s initial embrace of migrants, which some officials have said helped create an unmanageable situation, she said that finger-pointing was not helpful. “If we now start to have to excuse ourselves for the fact that we show a friendly face in an emergency, then that is not my country,” she said.
As of midnight, migrants who tried to breach the 109-mile fence made out of razor wire being constructed along Hungary’s border with Serbia faced the threat of arrest and criminal charges. Officials also threatened to imprison anyone damaging the barrier.
Zoltan Kovacs, a spokesman for Mr. Orban, said Hungary was setting up a “transit zone” along the border with Serbia. Inside that zone, he said, only those crossing from Serbia who have already applied for asylum would be allowed to enter. Everyone else would be turned away and not legally considered as having entered Hungary. The zone appeared to be a means to circumvent rules limiting how many people Hungary could deport each day to Serbia. Hungarian officials even said they were laying the groundwork for an additional fence, along the country’s eastern border with Romania.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Hungary said it had received 48 asylum applications in the transit zone, and had rejected 13 of them, with the remainder under review.
Hungary’s move prompted an alarmed response from Serbia. Its foreign minister, Ivica Dacic, called Hungary’s turning back of migrants to Serbia “unacceptable,” Reuters reported.
Speaking from the border village of Horgos, Serbia’s labor minister, Aleksandar Vulin, told the Serbian broadcaster B92 that the situation could “spiral out of control.” He called …Read More