Croatia Closes Border Crossings With Serbia To Stem Migrant Influx
September 18, 2015
Croatia has closed seven of the country's eight border crossings with Serbia 'until further notice' following a massive influx of migrants and refugees, the Interior Ministry announced late September 17.
Croatia also put its army on alert to deal with the more than 11,000 migrants who have entered from Serbia since September 16, the ministry said.
The migrants began heading for Croatia after Hungary sealed its border with Serbia earlier this week, cutting off a key route into the European Union used this year by more than 200,000 migrants, many of them fleeing violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Croatia had said it would let people pass through freely on their way to other EU countries, but Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic warned that his country's resources for dealing with the huge influx were 'limited.'
Meanwhile, Slovenia announced that it had stopped a train from Croatia carrying migrants and it will return some 150 passengers to Zagreb because they did not have the necessary documents for onward travel.
Slovenia also suspended all train traffic between Slovenia and Croatia until September 18, the Slovenian news agency STA reported.
Slovenia is next in line as the most likely route for migrants traveling to Austria and Germany.
Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar has said his country would stick to the rules of Europe's Schengen zone of border-free travel. It will receive asylum requests, but not create a 'corridor' for refugees to simply pass through Slovenia into Austria.
Croatian authorities have been transporting many migrants to reception centers around the capital, Zagreb, after registering them.
Health Minister Sinisa Varga said Croatia expects an influx of more than 20,000 migrants during the next two weeks.
Ahmad, a 22-year-old from Syria, says he nearly drowned while crossing the Mediterranean Sea in a boat to reach Greece before traveling on through Macedonia and Serbia. He told RFE/RL's Balkan Service in the Croatian border town of Tovarnik that his goal is to reach Germany.
Ahmad said he wants to join his mother, who is already in Germany, and that he wants to study to work in the medical profession.
For months, the 28-member EU has been unable to decide how to deal with Europe's biggest influx of migrants and asylum seekers since World War II, leading many members to unilaterally take steps to control their borders
Hungary has sealed off its borders, making it a criminal offense to illegally enter the country.
Bulgaria began deploying troops to its southeastern border with Turkey to avoid a refugee influx.
Austria began selective controls of vehicles entering from Hungary, and Germany also has started checking people at that country's borders with Austria and the Czech Republic.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, Reuters, AFP, dpa, and AP
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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