Tuesday

23rd Jan 2018

Tovarnik: A new hotspot in the EU migrant crisis

  • The 1pm train didn't come (Photo: Antony ***)

Hussam Ehsan, a 28-year-old Syrian economist, lights another cigarette while waiting next to train tracks for a ride to western Europe.

He’s one of over 1,000 refugees stuck, on Thursday (17 September), at the tiny station in Tovarnik - a Croatian town over the border from Serbia, which has become the new hotspot in Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since WWII.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

They made their way overnight to Croatia from Serbia, after violent scenes on Wednesday at the Hungarian-Serbian border, which was closed on Tuesday.

According to official figures, 5,500 asylum seekers in total entered Croatia over the past two days.

In Tovarnik, families with small children, as well as jaded adults, wait, sleeping, or chatting in the shade, while surrounded by Croatian regular police and by anti-riot squads.

The local Red Cross provided water, diapers, and tins of food, but in limited rations and supplies are running low.

The situation was initially calm. But people are beginning to get hungry, as well as impatient due to lack information, with chants of “Trains! Trains!” erupting more and more often.

The police had told them a train would take them to Zagreb at 1pm local time.

The exhausted people lined up next to the tracks, in scorching autumn heat. But the train didn’t come.

“Why don’t they let us go?”, said one Syrian woman, who was crying. “This is Europe in 2015?”, she asked EUobserver.

Hussam

Hussam and his friends were turned away from the Hungarian border the day before the violence broke out.

They learned from friends on Facebook and WhatsApp that Croatia is open.

“Believe me, Hungary will lose nothing if they [also] open the borders. We just want to pass [through]”, he told this website. “Closing borders just makes the journey more dangerous for kids, as people turn to smugglers”.

“We respect Hungary ... We don’t want to make trouble for them,” he said, adding: “We escaped war. We don’t want another war”.

Hussam, who studied banking, is from Homs.

He says he took part in some of the first peaceful rallies against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in 2011 before being forced to flee to Damascus.

He then fled Syria one month ago, paying a smuggler $1,250 to take him, by boat, from Turkey to Greece.

He said he has cousins in Sweden, who encouraged him to try to come to Europe, saying: “Europeans are nice”.

He wants to go to Germany, before deciding where to stay for good.

“We’re not here to take money from Europe. We’re here to work. We’re not looking for money. We’re looking for a future”, he said.

Majd

The Syrians this website talked to in Tovarnik said a quarter of the people there are Syrians, while others are from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

They said Iraqis often pose as Syrians in hope of better treatment.

For his part, Majd, a 25 year-old Syrian mechanic, and his family of nine, are running from Islamic State.

They said their village in north Syria, Al-Shaitat, was captured by the radical Islamists who killed everybody who opposed them.

They said some of their cousins who were beheaded by IS fighters “for having a different opinion”.

They declined to give their real names, as Majd has a sister who is still in Syria and they fear for her life.

“I hope where we go there is democracy, freedom, and a good life,” Majd’s mother said, after a night spent sleeping on the rugged ground at the Tovarnik station.

“We’re heading for Germany,” she added. “We lost everything in Syria. Their country [Germany] will help us”.

Refugee crisis prompts snap EU summit

EU leaders are to hold emergency talks next Wednesday, amid EU border crackdowns and disagreements on how to share 120,000 refugees.

News in Brief

  1. Belgium lowers terror alert level
  2. France, Spain set to gain seats in post-Brexit EU parliament
  3. Orban family probed over 'fraudulent' EU projects
  4. Spanish judge rejects Puigdemont arrest warrant
  5. Austria plans to sue Commission over Hungary's nuclear plant
  6. Puigdemont proposed as sole candidate for Catalan leadership
  7. Abbas in Brussels to discuss Palestinian state recognition
  8. Exiled Catalan leader leaves Belgium for first time

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. EU stands by Palestine on Jerusalem
  2. MEPs may bar killer robots and drones from EU research cash
  3. Europe's social democrats are having a hard time
  4. How Oettinger's CO2 permit sale could fill Brexit blackhole
  5. New Polish foreign minister tries to charm EU commission
  6. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on agenda This WEEK
  7. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  8. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap