Croatia Seeks to Redirect Migrants Toward Hungary, Slovenia

Amer Cohadzic and Danica Kirka, My Way, September 18, 2015

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said Friday his nation is overwhelmed by a huge influx of migrants and will redirect people toward Hungary and Slovenia as they move north in hopes of reaching more prosperous European countries.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Croatia’s move would solve the situation since both Hungary and Slovenia are taking steps to keep migrants out, deepening a crisis as people seek a route to refuge.

Huge numbers of people have surged into Croatia after Hungary erected a barbed wire-fence on its border with Serbia and took other tough measures to stop them from using it as a gateway into Western Europe. Croatia represents a longer and more difficult route into Europe, but those fleeing violence in their homelands had little choice.

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Milanovic said that Croatia can no longer register people in accordance to European Union rules, but will let them pass through. He suggested it will transfer them to the borders, primarily to the Hungarian border.

“What else can we do?” he said at a news conference. “You are welcome in Croatia and you can pass through Croatia. But, go on. Not because we don’t like you but because this is not your final destination.”

Croatia closed all but one of its border crossings with Serbia after straining to cope with more than 14,000 migrants who have entered the country after Hungary closed its border.

Still, the country’s prime minister insisted that the country was not sealing off its border and would not do so. Milanovic said Croatia is simply overwhelmed by a situation which has “gone far beyond our capabilities.” He appealed to the European Union to step in and help.

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Serbian officials, fearing the closure in Croatia would block thousands of migrants inside the country, protested Zagreb’s move. Aleksandar Vulin, Serbia’s social affairs minister, said Serbia will take Croatia to international courts if the international border crossings remain closed, arguing that it should have been prepared for the influx.

“We will not pay the price of someone else’s incapability,” Vulin said. “I am sorry to see that Croatian humanity and solidarity lasted just two days.”

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Meanwhile, Hungary started building another razor-wire fence overnight, this time along a stretch of its border with Croatia to keep migrants from entering the country there. The migrants would prefer the quicker route to Europe through Hungary, instead of taking the longer route through Slovenia.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the first phase of the 41-kilometer (25-mile) barrier will be completed on Friday, with coils of razor wire being laid down before an actual fence goes up. In addition, he said he would deploy 1,800 soldiers and 800 police to the border with Croatia over the next days to keep out migrants.

He lashed out at those in the West who have criticized his handling of the migrant crisis.

“The critical voices from there are not calming down,” Orban said, adding that European politics and media are governed by a “suicidal liberalism” that “puts our way of life at risk.”

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