Croatia border closures leave refugees stranded

All but one border crossing with Serbia shut after 13,000 refugees en route to Western Europe enter the Balkan country.

Croatia has given warnings that it will close all border crossings in a bid to bar refugees from entering after about 13,000 crossed into the country over the last three days.

The Balkans nation has already closed seven out of eight of its border crossings with Serbia.

Croatia has also blocked refugees – most of whom had fled conflict in Syria and Iraq – from leaving for Slovenia en route to western European countries such as Germany, leaving many of them stranded along the border.

“Up to now we have registered 13,000 migrants on Croatian territory,” Ranko Ostojic, Croatian interior minister, said on Friday.

“This figure means that our capacities to take in more are saturated.”

These refugees brought by train from Tovarnik to Zagreb wait to be taken to a local fairground, now a makeshift refugee camp [Mohammed Jamjoom / Al Jazeera]These refugees brought by train from Tovarnik to Zagreb wait to be taken to a local fairground, now a makeshift refugee camp [Mohammed Jamjoom / Al Jazeera]

PHOTOS: Refugees caught between hope and harsh laws in Europe

Serbian officials, fearing that the closures would confine too many refugees inside their country, protested against Croatia’s move.

Aleksandar Vulin, Serbia’s social affairs minister, said Serbia will take Croatia to international court if the international border crossings remain closed, arguing that it should have been prepared for the influx.

The Facebook page of a human smuggler

“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.”

However, despite the border closures, many continued entering Croatia through cornfields. Women carrying children and people in wheelchairs were among the thousands rushing in the heat in hopes of finding refuge.

One of the more desperate situations was unfolding in the eastern Croatian town of Beli Manastir, near the border with Hungary. Refugees slept on streets, on train tracks, and at a local petrol station.

Meanwhile, Zoran Milanovic, the country’s prime minister, said that Croatia’s resources were limited.

“We will not and cannot keep [refugees] in Croatia, and no one will make us do that,” he said.

Refugee children board a bus in Zagreb [Mohammed Jamjoom / A Jazeera]Refugee children board a bus in Zagreb [Mohammed Jamjoom / A Jazeera]

Slovenia, the gateway to countries like Germany and Austria, has also moved to prevent refugees from entering the country by suspending all rail traffic between itself and Croatia.

PHOTOS: Refugees, caught between hope and despair, cross into Macedonia

The move came after Slovenian authorities detained 150 refugees who crossed the border from Croatia on Thursday evening.

Police intercepted the refugees just over the border in Dobova and are now urging Croatia to take them back.

Slovenian authorities also blocked 100 refugees from trying to cross the main border crossing of Obrezje.

The influx of refugees into Croatia came after Hungary shut its border, erected a barbed-wire fence, and took other tough measures to stop the refugees from using it as a gateway into Western Europe. 

Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief, on Thursday expressed shock at the treatment of refugees by Hungarian police.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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