Balkans bottlenecks leave migrants stranded

2015-10-19 20:42
Migrants wait for a bus at the border between Croatia and Slovenia in Trnovec, Croatia.(Petr David Josek, AP)

Migrants wait for a bus at the border between Croatia and Slovenia in Trnovec, Croatia.(Petr David Josek, AP)

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Belgrade - Diplomatic tensions flared amid chaos at the Slovenian, Croatian and Serbian borders on Monday as the slower intake of refugees created bottlenecks, while migrants continued to arrive from the south.

Hundreds of people were slowly filtering across the border from Croatia to Slovenia during the day, some through designated corridors, but many by sneaking across elsewhere, the Zagreb daily Jutarnji List said online.

A crowd of more than 1 000 people had spent a rough night outside after Slovenia on Sunday stopped allowing the migrants - mainly people fleeing wars in the Middle East - to pass. More refugees arrived overnight and in the morning.

Shrugged of criticism

Slovenian leaders criticised their Croatian counterparts, saying they ignored an agreement by sending too many additional refugees from the border with Serbia.

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said: "The situation is certainly tense and problems are multiplying because Croatia is not respecting some agreements, but brings too many migrants to our border."

Earlier, Interior Minister Vesna Gyorkos Znidar blasted Croatia's transport of people as "unacceptable."

Cerar said that Slovenia will intensify the control over its border in order to keep the number of refugees manageable.

Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic, however, shrugged off all criticism and said his country can only continue shuttling people westwards.

"If anyone wants Croatia to be the wall, fine, but the decision must come from the European Union," Ostojic told reporters in the Opatovac reception centre on the border with Serbia. 

Slovenia and Croatia are both a part of the EU, but only Slovenia is within EU's border-free Schengen zone comprising 26 countries.

Asylum system

A spokesperson for EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on Monday warned the two countries, along with their neighbour, EU and Schengen member Hungary, to co-operate and make sure that refugees are fully registered.

The three countries "are bound by a common European asylum system and what we are trying to check now is the extent to which the measures are undertaken," said spokesperson Natasha Bertaud.

Croatia started letting more people in from the Serbian side on Monday afternoon after a slowdown, apparently triggered by Slovenian border closure to refugees 300km west, forced about between 1 500 and 2 500 people to stand in the rain for hours.

Slovenia said earlier that it can process about 2 500 migrants per day, but Croatia is letting many more through.

Reception centres

The situation is set to become even more tense, as the UN refugee agency UNHCR said Monday that another 10 000 people were moving through Serbia from the Macedonian border in the south.

In Greece, the coast guard rescued 2 400 people attempting to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey, state TV ERT1 reported.

It also said that one of the main EU refugee and migrant reception centres on the Greek island of Lesbos was overwhelmed. It can process 2 500 people daily, but more than 5 000 were already waiting as more steadily arrived from Turkey.

Only a handful of people sought asylum in the transit countries, with most seeking to reach richer Western European nations.
Read more on:    slovenia  |  croatia  |  migrants

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