Hundreds of migrants streamed into the European Union Wednesday through the cornfields of Croatia, welcomed there after Hungary blocked its border with Serbia and fired tear gas and sprayed water cannon at migrants still trying to enter its territory, the Voice of America reported on September 16.
A Hungarian court convicted an Iraqi man of illegally crossing the border fence with Serbia the day before, ordered him expelled and excluded him from Hungary for a year.
Hungary defended its border closing, saying it was protecting its territory against the influx of migrants looking for better economic opportunities, not fleeing persecution in their homelands.
Still more migrants sought entry to the EU elsewhere, walking from Salzburg, Austria, into Germany, or through Lithuania on their way to Scandinavian countries.
* The number of migrants crossing illegally into Hungary dropped steeply on September 15, while a few dozen were reported to have crossed into Croatia from Serbia.
The Hungarian government said Wednesday that only 366 illegal entrants were rounded up on Tuesday, the first day of operation for Hungary’s strict new laws punishing people who enter the country illegally. On Monday, police said, a record 9,380 migrants crossed into Hungary.
Meanwhile, the tide may have turned southward. A few dozen migrants were seen entering Croatia from Serbia Tuesday, and busloads more were seen heading that direction from the Serbian town of Presevo, the Voice of America reported.
* Buses that would normally carry migrants from Serbia’s southern border with Macedonia northwards have reportedly been re-routed away from Hungary’s razor-wire fence towards EU member Croatia, euronews said on September 16.
* The first group of migrants has reached Croatia – a new route to northern European Union countries, a day after Hungary sealed its border with Serbia, the BBC said on September 16.
The migrants had travelled by bus from southern Serbia. Hundreds spent the night in the open. Many of them are hoping to reach Germany.
Croatia has said it will not “just allow people to move through”.
* Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said that Croatia had prepared an “emergency plan in the case of an influx of thousands of refugees,” but did not give details. “The government will quickly activate that emergency plan if need be,” Ostojic added, Deutsche Welle reported on September 16.
With Hungary sealed off for the first time since the Iron Curtain, many migrants now hope to enter EU member Croatia and then Schengen state Slovenia, moving beyond to Austria and Germany. On September 16, Reuters reported that Croatian police had rounded up the migrants and taken them away for registration.
* Refugees are traveling from Asia, the Middle East and Africa taking the Balkan Route via Greece, Macedonia and Serbia, in a bid to reach Western and Northern Europe, Serbian news website B92 said on September 16.
According to information Tanjug received from international organisations, 80 refugees arrived in Sid by 7.30am CET this morning, in buses and taxis, and continued in the direction of Croatia on foot.
* Serbian foreign minister Ivica Dacic says Serbia finds it “unacceptable” that Hungary would send migrants back while more and more are arriving from Macedonia and Greece, B92 said.
* Large groups of migrants from Syria and Iraq were continuing to arrive in the border region of Edirne in Turkey, Bulgarian National Radio said on September 16. About 1000 migrants were staying in the town, but under police control, governor Dursun Sahin said. He said they would not be allowed to move further towards the border with Bulgaria and Greece, heading further into Europe.
* Amid alarmingly frequent reports of refugees and migrants drowning in the Aegean, there are signs that a potentially safer land route toward Greece from Turkey is being favoured by some, Greece’s ekathimerini said on September 16.
A group on Facebook called “Crossing no More” has thousands of members, chiefly refugees from Iraq and Syria, expressing their desire to get to Europe but without the “boats of death.” In one posting on the group’s page on Tuesday, a member called on refugees to gather at the Greek-Turkish border.
* The strain of sheltering the world’s largest refugee population is showing in Turkey, whose open door to those fleeing Syria and Iraq is shielding European nations from a migration crisis far worse than the one they are struggling with now, Turkey’s Today’s Zaman said on September 15.
As some European governments turn to baton-wielding police and barricades to stem the flow of migrants, Ankara has vowed to continue accommodating more than two million people from its war-torn southern neighbours and welcome any more who come.
(Photo: Horgos border area between Serbia and Hungary; IOM News via Twitter)