Croatia diverts refugees to Slovenia

Croatia diverts refugee influx to Slovenia after Hungary closes border with its southwestern neighbour

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Refugees wait to board to a bus after exiting a train at a train station in Croatia's Cakovec, where they will be transported to Slovenia by buses and train, October 17, 2015.

Updated Oct 18, 2015

Refugees from war-torn Middle Eastern countries, especially from Syria and Iraq, arrived in Slovenia on Saturday after they changed direction by overnight following Hungary's closureof its border with Croatia.

Hungary’s right-wing government declared that they closed its 355.5 kilometre border with its southwestern neighbour Croatia to halt the refugee influx with metal fence and razor wire.

One month ago, Hungary also closed its borders with southern neighbour Serbia after it completed the building of a 175 kilometre-long fence which began in mid-June.

After the closure of the border, Croatia diverted refugees, who want to reach wealthier EU countries to have a better life, to its western neighbour Slovenia.

It has been reported that 300 refugees had arrived and would be registered before continuing their journey to Austria and Germany.

Throughout the night, dozens of buses full of refugees arrived at the Croatian border from Serbia, where the police controlled their entry, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Slovenia announced that it had suspended rail traffic with Croatia.

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said on Saturday evening that the Slovenian army will help border police handle the refugee influx.

"We are going to focus even more on safety and security and order so our country can function normally," Cerar said, adding, "if destination countries begin adopting stricter measures at the border, Slovenia will follow suit."

Aid agencies are concerned about backlogs of refugees building up in the Balkans as the winter season kicks in.

Hungary said that it had reinstated border controls with Slovenia, which is in Schengen Area, guaranteeing passport-free travel. Croatia, however, is not in Schengen Area.

A government spokesman said Budapest had taken this step because "migrants appeared" on the Slovenian side of the border.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that Germany can control its borders but not close them completely, saying "that wouldn't even succeed with a fence, as the example of Hungary shows," the Associated Press reported.

Slovenia, a country of 2 million people, said that it can accommodate up to 8,000 refugees per day, while Croatia, which has a 4.2 million population, said that it will not restrict the influx so long as Germany and Austria keep their doors open.

Around 100 refugees had reached Austria’s border province Styria, a regional spokesman for the police said on Saturday afternoon, with hundreds more were expected later in the day.

Hungary deems itself as a provider of border security and preserving of “Christian values” of Europe.

Hungary’s conservative leader Viktor Orban previously said that "Europe and European culture have Christian roots,” further asking “Or is it not already and in itself alarming that Europe's Christian culture is barely in a position to uphold Europe's own Christian values?"

The main flow of refugees are using the route through Turkey and Greece. On Thursday, the EU offered Turkey a possible 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in aid and the prospect of easier travel visas and "re-energised" talks on joining the bloc if it would help stem the flow of refugees across its territory.

But Hungary argued that this is not enough and offered to form a common force to protect Greece’s border where most of the refugees arrive from across the Aegean Sea.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Ranko Ostojic warned of a “domino effect” if Germany closes the door on refugees.

"It will be a lot of trouble for all countries and I cannot predict what will happen in this situation," Ostojic told reporters at a refugee camp in the eastern Croatian village of Opatovac.

"They are risking their lives and nobody is able to stop this flow ... without shooting."

TRTWorld and agencies