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News 16 Sep 15

Refugees Stream Into Croatia as Hungary Shuts Border

Hundreds of refugees have started crossing the Serbia-Croatia border after being bused to the frontier, after Hungary closed its doors.

Refugees on the border with Croatia. | Photo by Hrvatska uzivo, Croatian Radio-Television, HRT

After several hundred refugees diverted from the Hungarian border entered Croatia on Wednesday, Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovoic said he would call a meeting of the National Security Council, the central body for security coordination to address the problem.

The news came as police in the eastern border Vukovar County said they had already registered 181 refugees crossing the border. Reuters news agency cited the Interior Minister  as reporting that 277 refugees had entered Croatia that morning.

Earlier, criticising Hungary’s border controls, Milanovic he said no country should erect walls and wires in Europe in the 21st century. “It sends a terrible message,” he said.

Police have also said they expect around 500 refugees to cross by the end of the day. Croatian Radio-Television, HRT, reported that additional 12 buses are expected to arrive in the Serbian border town of Sid to collect them during the day. A special train will also run to eastern Croatia to transport the refugees to the refugee center in Zagreb.

The first refugees arrived in the Serbian border town of Sid at around 6am on Wednesday and then crossed over into Croatia after their original route north to Western Europe was blocked by Hungary’s border shutdown.

The first group to arrive were mainly women and children, the majority from Syria and Afghanistan, who travelled to Sid on a bus from Presevo in the south of Serbia. A second busload arrived minutes later.

The refugees then walked a few kilometres from Sid to the border, while some tried to illegally enter Croatia through a cornfield, trying to avoid official registration. Some also went to the Serbian village of Sot, where there is a refugee camp.

Croatian police rounded up the refugees who crossed the border and said they will be transported to a registration centre, where they will be registered and released so they can continue on their way towards Western Europe.

On the Hungarian border with Serbia, around 1,000 refugees reached the border on Wednesday, trying to enter Hungary through the Horgos border crossing. After Hungarian police denied them entrance a group returned to a reception camp in northern Serbian town of Kanjiza.

However, one group of refugees and migrants later broke through the fence on Serb-Hungarian border, near the Horgos border crossing and entered Hungary, Serbia's Tanjug news agency reported. A large number of Hungarian police stopped them..

New Hungarian border legislation which went into effect on Tuesday extending the option of deploying the army on the borders, and saying that illegal immigration will be punishable by up to three years in prison, or five if the border fence is demaged.

According to Red Cross information, more refugees were continuing to arrive in the Serbian southern municipality, near the border with Macedonia. The same source said around 2,000 new refugees are being registrated in Presevo daily.

Hungarian police on Monday afternoon sealed off the railway line between Hungary and Serbia, which had been the main informal crossing point between the two countries for tens of thousands of refugees and migrants who have used it as a transit point on their journey to the EU.

Opposition to refugees in Croatia

Comments posted on the ‘Avoid Hungary – migration news’ Facebook page have revealed some of the prejudices against refugees in Croatia.

Croatian and international users of the page have posted hate speech, warnings, fascist slogans and anti-refugee photomontages.

Refugees have often been referred to as ‘goats’ – an anti-Islamic insult.

Dubravko Peros, a member of governing centre-left Social Democratic Party, SDP, posted a sarcastic comment about the refugees coming to Croatia, suggesting they eat too much.

“As a true social democrat, thinking about housing a Syrian family, when I see them on TV like they are, I’m afraid they really don’t eat a little. Perhaps it would be wiser to wait for those from Somalia,” he wrote on the page on Tuesday.

The SDP condemned the quote and Peros for posting it.


Croatian interior minister Ranko Ostojic said on Tuesday that Croatia was ready for the first wave of refugees. He added that the government had an emergency plan for dealing with the refugee crisis, which could be implemented quickly.

“If there is a massive influx, or a wave of refugees which is in the thousands, of course, then this is a moment when you can no longer apply ordinary and regular police measures successfully at the border,” he said.

Zlatko Sokolar, head of the Croatian border administration, said on Monday that Croatia was prepared for a refugee influx and had dispatched 6,000 police to safeguard its borders. He estimated that Croatia could accommodate up to 3,000 refugees.

Some Croatians have started a Facebook group called ‘Dear refugees: Welcome to Croatia’, aimed at helping refugees find their way towards Western Europe. Similar information is available on the ‘Avoid Hungary – migration news’ Facebook page.

Alarmed by the rising number of incomers, Germany temporarily exited the Schengen regime and restarted border controls with Austria on Monday.

The president of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, has proposed sharing out the refugees among EU states according to quotas.

According to the proposal, Croatia will receive 1,064 refugees. In addition to this, Croatia agreed in July to receive additional 550 refugees and asylum seekers.

Only 720 people have applied for asylum in Croatia so far this year, and only 40 of these appeals were granted, while 21 were given official state protection.

Meanwhile, Hungarian police have arrested hundreds of refugees who tried to enter the country illegally after Hungary closed its border and introduced state of emergency on Tuesday trying to stop the influx of the migrants.

Media reports said refugees waiting on the Serbian border tried to enter Hungary illegally by climbing the barricades and demanding to be let in.

According to the CBS News report several hundred refugees then tried to enter Hungary through the fields and were arrested.

During the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, a large group of the refugees made a temporary camp in the no man’s land between Serbia and Hungary and refused to go back to the reception camp in the northern Serbian town of Kanjiza.

Serbia’s Tanjug news agency reported that the refugees protested over the night, chanting: “Let us in,” “Germany” and “Serbia.”

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