Saturday

7th Dec 2019

EU-bound migrants at risk of land mines in Croatia

  • Croatian minefield sign (Photo: Dmitry Klimenko)

People trying to walk to the EU via Croatia, after Hungary sealed its border, risk straying into old minefields, a Facebook group has warned.

Croatian media reports say hundreds of refugees have begun crossing the border from Sid, in north-west Serbia, to Tovarnik, in Croatia following Hungary’s move on Tuesday.

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The new arrivals are making their way into Croatia in an orderly manner.

But Croatian people have warned them, on Facebook and Wikipedia , of the dangers of Balkan War-era minefields.

The Facebook site, called “Dear Refugees: Welcome to Croatia”, said, in English and Arabic: “If you're about to make the trip to Europe through Croatia please read here. Beware of minefields!”.

It also published maps showing red zones, mostly in north-east Croatia, which contain up to 60,000 unexploded mines.

Croatian authorities have sent de-mining experts to the Serbian border area, the BBC reports, and mine zones are marked with danger signs.

But mines have killed more than 500 people since the war ended in 1995.

For his part, Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said on Wednesday that he is happy to give the refugees free passage.

"These people … don’t want to come to Croatia or Hungary either and that is why I don’t understand where the problem is of letting them pass through”, he said.

Neighbouring Slovenia is also welcoming migrants.

It has stepped up checks on its Croatian and Hungarian borders and it has reception capacity for just 5,000 to 7,000 people.

But Sefic Bostjan, Slovenian state secretary, has said his country will take care of all refugee arrivals, according to Hungarian news agency MTI.

He added that Slovenia will uphold Schengen zone obligations by transporting migrants to other EU states only if the host states agree to take them.

Slovenia joined the EU passport-free Schengen area in 2007. Croatia has yet to join.

Meanwhile, the Hungarian border clampdown prompted chaotic scenes on Wednesday.

Migrants stuck in Serbia briefly broke through Hungary's barrier but were intercepted by riot police. Police also used tear-gas and water cannon against people throwing bottles and stones.

The Western Balkan developments come against a backdrop of Schengen border crackdowns.

Austria, on Wednesday, reintroduced border controls with Slovenia, Hungary, and Italy.

Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia took similar action earlier this week.

The day borders came back to Europe

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Croatia started ferrying refugees to Hungary by bus on Friday, saying it can't cope any more, while also suspending EU rules on registration of newcomers.

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