Saturday

22nd Feb 2020

Croatia shuts border points with Serbia

Croatian authorities on Thursday (17 September) closed down half a dozen road crossing points with Serbia.

The move follows the arrival of some 13,300 asylum seekers in the country in recent days, according to the Croatian government. The Croat army has also been put on alert and is ready to be deployed.

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"Don't come here anymore. Stay in refugee centers in Serbia and Macedonia and Greece", said Croatian interior minister Ranko Ostojic, reports AP.

"This is not the road to Europe. Buses can't take you there. It's a lie".

EU rules require Croatia to register the asylum seekers. Around 1,000 of them are stuck at the Croatian border town of Tovarnik, many of whom want to travel on to Germany.

Neighbouring Slovenia temporarily suspended trains coming from Croatia after a group of 150 people seeking refuge arrived late Thursday.

A Slovenian border police spokesman told reporters the group would be returned to Croatia.

Slovenia has also stepped up border checks.

"We cannot let people who do not meet conditions enter the European Union over the border", said Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar.

Earlier this week, Hungarian authorities dispatched riot police at the Serb border and fired tear gas and water cannons at people trying to breach a razor-wire border fence.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon spoke out against Hungary's treatment of the refugees, many of whom are fleeing war in Syria.

Hungary's decision to close its border with Serbia and the violent incidents have prompted people to divert to Croatia, which has an additional problem: up to 60,000 Balkan war-era mines littered around fields near Serb borders.

Croatia's move on Thursday is the latest in a string of border clampdowns and railway closures in EU states in recent days.

On Sunday, Germany imposed temporary border controls with Austria "to bring some order to the entry of refugees", after thousands arrived in Munich.

Austria, Slovakia, and the Netherlands followed suit.

The Schengen border code allows EU states to temporarily seal borders "if there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security”.

But Berlin’s decision was the first time migratory pressure was used as justification. Up until then, EU states had only introduced border controls six times since 2013.

An EU official told reporters last week that the European Commission can make recommendations on where border controls can be introduced for how long.

"If we understand that there is a more systemic problem across the EU, the Commission has the possibility to recommend specific introductions", the official said.

Meanwhile, EU interior ministers are meeting for a second time next week to discuss a Commission plan to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers from Italy, Greece, and Hungary.

Latvia announced it would take in an extra 526 refugees, up from 250, under the scheme.

Some 464,000 people have arrived by sea to the EU since the start of the year.

The vast majority landed in Greece with many heading up through the Western Balkans in an attempt to enter mainland EU.

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