With Germany and Austria having closed their borders so that exhausted government workers can catch up with the paperwork in processing tens of thousands of refugees, bottlenecks have been forming in the Balkans as Hungary desperately tries to keep its border secure and Serbia tries to keep the migrants moving through its country into Croatia.
But now Croatia, inundated with more than 17,000 refugees in just a couple of days, is closing its border as well, saying they can handle no more. It appears now that all avenues leading north have been blocked, and authorities are using increasingly harsh measures to control the human tide.
Late Friday Slovenian police used pepper spray to push back asylum seekers at a border crossing west of the Croatian capital of Zagreb. Early Saturday the Slovenian police allowed about 850 to board buses to a migrant processing center in Brezice.
Other refugees made it to a kind of no-man’s land between the two counties. At the Croatian village of Harmica a few hundred Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis were camped on a bridge over the Sutla River. They were bottled up by a phalanx of Slovenia riot police, who urged patience. Two buses were slowly making round trips, taking the travelers to a migrant reception center in Slovenia.
From there, neither police, Red Cross volunteers nor refugees could say what the next stop would be. On the bridge rumors circulated via social media that some were already on their way to Austria, news that lead a group of Iraqis start singing.
The refugees have been forced to devise new routes across the Balkans, using word of mouth, the kindness of strangers and instinct as borders opened then rapidly closed.
The latest obstacle was Croatia, which staggered under the weight of the influx after initially opening its arms to the refugees.
By late Friday, the nation had taken in more than 17,000 asylum seekers. Hundreds more were arriving every hour, even though the prime minister warned that the nation of 4.2 million could handle no more.
As many 1000 asylum seekers were shipped Friday night from Croatia to Hungary via a special train, accompanied by 40 Croatian police. This move was answered by howls of protest by Hungarian officials who accused Croatia of abetting human trafficking.
Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told Sky News the move to shove asylum seekers toward Hungary showed “the Croatian system for handling migrants and refugees has collapsed, basically in one day.”
“What we see today is a complete failure of the Croatian state to handle migration issues,” he said.
The 1,000 refugees brought into Hungary on Friday night were put on an onward Hungarian train soon after they arrived unannounced at Magyarboly train station, station staff said Saturday morning.
The 40 Croatian soldiers who accompanied them across the border were sent back on foot after the Hungarians impounded the train, the staff said.
Is the Euro-project disintegrating before our eyes? The stresses placed on EU members and pressures being exerted by Germany to have nations like Slovenia, Croatia, and Hungary take in their “fair share” of refugees are generating a growing resentment. And it’s not at all clear that a consensus on any plan to accept the migrants can be reached:
Central and Eastern European countries have blocked E.U. attempts to spread asylum seekers throughout the continent. But Germany alone expects to take in 800,000 asylum seekers this year, and possibly up to 1 million.
The disparity has some German leaders suggesting that they should force the wayward E.U. nations to take in refugees. Imposing requirements by majority rule, rather than by consensus, is an option under E.U. law, but it has never before been used for an issue of such sensitivity.
“It cannot be that Germany, Austria, Sweden and Italy bear the burden alone. European solidarity does not work that way,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Germany’s Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.
If Germany tries to impose its will on this issue, it is likely to split the EU into several pieces. How is Germany going to enforce any plan to settle the migrants? At the point of a gun? I don’t think so.
It would be ironic indeed if Germany, the biggest supporter of the EU on the continent, were to be the cause of its collapse because of their wrongheaded immigration policies that encouraged this mass migration of refugees.