Balkan countries prepare winter refugee shelters

2015-10-13 20:00
A boy and a man wait for a train heading towards Serbia at the transit camp near the southern Macedonian town of Gevgelija. (Boris Grdanoski, AP)

A boy and a man wait for a train heading towards Serbia at the transit camp near the southern Macedonian town of Gevgelija. (Boris Grdanoski, AP)

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Belgrade - Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia - concerned that Germany may stop taking in refugees and cause a backlog to the south - have begun preparing better winter shelters for refugees.

Slovenia's government on Tuesday said it was briefed on preparations for a possible increased influx of refugees, the STA news agency reported.

"A growing number of refugees ... wished to continue their journey to Western Europe and their transit via Slovenia could not be ruled out," Prime Minister Miro Cerar's cabinet said.

Slovenia may become a major transit country on the so-called Balkan route if Hungary seals its border with Croatia, as it did with Serbia a month ago.

Since then Slovenia has taken in around 3 600 people, of which 30 have requested asylum in the country.

The rest left toward Austria, with most hoping to seek asylum in Germany. If Germany restricts the influx, Slovenia anticipates Austria and Hungary doing the same, resulting in a surge of between 4 500 and 8 000 arrivals daily, STA said.

Presently, the migrants arriving in the Balkans, mostly from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, travel through Turkey to Greece's islands and mainland and onward through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary.

Croatia, which as of Monday had registered 162 000 migrants since Hungary closed its border with Serbia on September 15, is preparing to set up a reception centre in Slavonski Brod, about 130km west of the border.

The present reception centre in Opatovac on the border will remain operational until the new facility is ready, Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said Monday.

With more than 200 000 migrants passing through Serbia so far, the situation on its border with Macedonia is becoming critical with the approach of winter, one official said.

The registration of refugees has been quick in the city of Presevo, but they are exhausted because of crowding and bad weather, the head of the centre for asylum seekers Rados Djurovic told state TV RTS.

"More and more are [be]coming sick," Djurovic said, expressing the hope that a planned shelter in the nearby Bujanovac would become operational soon to alleviate the situation.

Because Serbia is on one of the main transit routes, refugees will be a "problem of many years" for the country, he said.

"It is all up to Germany. If Germany shuts its border then, in a system of closed vessels, other countries will begin closing theirs and under that scenario we can expect Croatia to close its border toward us," he said.

Read more on:    slovenia  |  serbia  |  croatia  |  migrants

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