17 Sep 2015

European refugee crisis: Croatia, the new pinch point

The latest dramatic scenes from Eastern Europe show chaos at yet another country’s border. This time, the focus of those trying to reach Western Europe is Croatia.

Refugees and migrants in Croatia

With refugees and migrants in Serbia now being blocked at the Hungarian border, and fearful of a repetition of the scenes of violence on Wednesday when Hungarian security forces fired water cannon and tear gas, those desperate for a safe passage to Austria and beyond have turned east and travelled along the Hungarian-Serbian border to neighbouring Croatia.

At the eastern town of Tovarnik, Croatian riot police tried to control the flow of thousands of refugees trying to stream into the European Union nation, but there simply were not enough officers to hold back the flow of people.

In the last 24 hours, over 7,300 migrants and refugees have arrived in Croatia from Serbia.

With the latest developments, the Croatian Interior Minister, Ranko Ostojic, told reporters in Tovarnik that the country could not receive any more people.
He said that the country would allow a safe passage to reception centres around Zagreb, but that those not seeking asylum would be seen as illegal immigrants.

Croatian police were deployed to a suburb of Zagreb around a hotel housing hundreds of migrants, some of them on balconies shouting “Freedom! Freedom!”

“Croatia will not be able to receive more people,” Ostojic said. “When we said corridors are prepared, we meant a corridor from Tovarnik to Zagreb.”

Ostojic did not state whether the Croatian authorities would allow refugees to proceed further north towards Slovenia.

Croatia factfile:
Croatia is a quarter of the size of the UK with a total population of 4.5 million.
In 2014 it was home to 2,886 refugees and internally displaced people.
Croatia joined the EU in 2013, but is not a member of the border-free Schengen area.

The 28 nations of the EU announced that leaders would hold an emergency summit on September 23 to attempt to resolve the migration crisis, which has created deep divisions among many countries.