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News 30 Sep 15

Croatia Mulls Options if Hungary Closes Border

Croatia is preparing for more problems with refugees if Hungary follows up on its plan to completely close the border with Croatia.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Hungarian soldiers setting a temporary fence in Beremend, on the border with Croatia. | Photo by Beta/MTI via AP/Tamas Soki

 

Croatia is mulling its options on refugees after Hungary again announced that it may  completely close the border with Croatia.

After Hungary closed the border with Serbia on September 15, the refugee wave promptly diverted to Croatia the next day, with buses of refugees coming from the town of Presevo in the south of Serbia to the border.

For a few days, until Croatia temporarily closed the border with Serbia, Croatia received the incomers in refugee centres around the country, where they were registered and allowed to continue their trek toward Germany and northern Europe.

Some refugees were transported to Croatia’s border with Slovenia, but the majority of the 85,000 were transported to the nearest border crossings with Hungary.

Now, claiming it is overwhelmed by an influx of refugees from Croatia, Hungary has again said it may close the border with Croatia.

Hungarian police claim 23,591 refugees illegally entered Hungary from Croatia during the weekend, while another 636 illegally entered Hungary from Serbia.

Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pinter on Monday said the date for closing the border with Croatia was not set, as it depends on the continued flow of refugees from Croatia.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban last Friday said he would ask the other member states of the Visegrad Group – Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland – for their opinion on closing the border with Croatia.

All Visegrad Group countries strongly the oppose immigration of refugees, while Slovakia has said it will only take in Christians.

If Hungary does close the border, the Croatian authorities may have to transport all the refugees all the way to the border with Slovenia, which would take more time and stretch logistical capacities.

An additional route has arisen last days, involving refugees diverting from their usual route in Greece and Macedonia and going via Albania and Montenegro into southern Croatia.

“I am sending the same message to everyone. Do not come, you will be returned to where you came from,” Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said on Monday, regarding the possibility of this "southern" route developing.

The Hungarian authorities have already built a temporary fence along the 41-kilometre land border with Croatia. The remaining 314 kilometres is made up of the rivers Drava and Mura.

Until now, the Croatian authorities have transported refugees to the Hungarian border crossings at Baranjsko Petrovo Selo - Beremend, Gola - Berzence, Botovo – Zakany, Terezino Polje – Barcs and Gorican – Letenye.

Although the Hungarian authorities have complained of Croatia’s actions, they have swifly transported the refugees to the Austrian border, where refugees could continue their trip towards north.

Drago Zuparic Iljic, from the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies in Zagreb, told BIRN that other new routes could open up.

One involves refugees entering Hungary and the Schengen zone from Romania, which would not concern Croatia. The other possible route is through Bosnia and Croatia to Slovenia, via a narrow strip of Croatian land near Karlovac.

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