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News 19 Oct 15

Thousands of Refugees Remain Stranded in Croatia

Croatia is struggling to cope with the influx of refugees and with transporting them to Slovenia, after Hungary shut its border.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Refugees in Sredisce ob Dravi on Slovenian border. | Photo by BEATAPHOTO/AP Photo/Darko Bandic

Thousands of refugees remain stranded on the Croatian border with Serbia, waiting for transport to Slovenia while another 10,000 refugees, coming from Greece, were expected to arrive on the Serbian-Croatian border on Monday morning.

On Sunday afternoon around 5,200 refugees were at the camp at Opatovac in eastern Croatia near the border with Serbia, awaiting transport to the border with Slovenia, in the north of the country. The refugees camp in Opatovac can receive up to 5,000 people.

The reason for the delay is that Slovenia has said that it can receive only up to 2,500 people daily while the number of refugees entering Croatia from Serbia is between 5,000 and 6,000.

After Hungary closed all its informal border crossings with Croatia on midnight on Friday, Croatia decided to organize the transport of the refugees to the border with Slovenia, where they could enter the Schengen passport-free zone and continue their journey towards Germany and northern Europe.

 

Refugee family in Sredisce ob Dravi on Slovenian border. | Photo by BETAPHOTO/AP Photo/Darko Bandic

 

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said on Sunday that the plan to transport the refugees was functioning for now, and that "everything is under control". He added that Croatia was prepared for other scenarios.

On Saturday, a group of 300 refugees were taken by bus to the border with Slovenia and entered the country. Later a train carrying around 1,200 refugees entered Slovenia at the border crossing in Sredisce ob Dravi, while another 600 were transported by bus to border crossings in Mursko Sredisce and Macelj.

The Slovenian authorities have put up a temporary fence and deployed police on the border crossings with Croatia.

The Slovenian interior ministry Secretary, Bostjan Sefic said that Slovenia would only receive new refugees “when the ones present are already registered”.

By Sunday night 4,218 refugees had entered Croatia from Serbia.

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said on Saturday that “since Slovenia is a transit country, it will introduce stricter rules on border, if the same is implemented by other states”.

Although Austrian interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner on Sunday said that Austria would stop receiving refugees until further notice, the Slovenian interior ministry said on Monday that Austria has allowed new refugees to enter the country.

The refugee wave was diverted to Croatia after Hungary closed its border with Serbia on September 15. According to the Croatian interior ministry, around 197,000 refugees have since entered Croatia.

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