- Croatian authorities were sending refugees to Slovenia
- Hungary's razor wire fence extended from border with Serbia
Hungary took control of its border with Slovenia hours after blocking entry from Croatia, expanding one of the European Union’s toughest sets of measures to stem the influx of refugees.
“Hungary is determined to defend, by all means, its own and Europe’s borders,” government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told reporters Saturday in Nagykanizsa, western Hungary. “We need to put an end to thousands, hundreds of thousands of people arriving unidentified and in an uncontrolled manner into Europe through Hungary.”
Faced with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, European leaders are bickering over how to treat an inflow of asylum-seekers from war-torn Syria, northern Africa and the Middle East. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will visit Turkey to discuss the crisis on Sunday, has said Europe has a moral and legal obligation to welcome those fleeing war and poverty. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban is seeking to stem the flow of refugees by erecting fences at its border in what he has called steps to defend Europe’s Christian heritage.
As of Saturday, refugees are no longer able to enter Hungary from Croatia, on its southern border, except at just two designated border crossings. Most may have their asylum requests rejected after Hungary tightened legal barriers to those arriving from countries deemed safe.
Human rights groups have criticized Orban’s cabinet for imposing legal restrictions, erecting the razor wire at the border and failing to provide enough food and shelter for refugees.
Hungary also took steps to temporarily reinstate controls at its border with Slovenia, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in an e-mailed statement.
The government has information that refugees unable to cross into Hungary at the Croatian border are being taken west, to enter from the Slovenian frontier, the minister said. “The steps are within the bounds of the Schengen treaty,” he said, referring to the agreement regulating Europe’s open-border area.
Croatia had offered to help transport migrants to its border with Slovenia, in agreement with its northwestern neighbor, Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Vesna Pusic told state TV late Friday. From Slovenia, refugees are likely to travel to Austria and then on to Germany.
About 5,200 refugees arrived in the Balkan country from Serbia on Saturday by 3 p.m. in Zagreb, in line with the pace of entries seen in previous days, police said on its website. A train with 1,800 migrants had departed Saturday from Tovarnik, a town on Croatia’s border with Serbia, toward Slovenia, while a second was being prepared for, Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told reporters in Opatovac earlier in the day.
The Croatian government “has things under control,” Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said Saturday. “The last of the last solutions would be that we build some kind of wall as well,” he told reporters in Zagreb, according to HINA.
Slovenia expects the arrival of about 1,800 migrants from Croatia on Saturday, STA newswire cited Srecko Sestan, the chief of civil defense, as saying. Three buses transporting refugees arrived at the country’s northern border with Austria, Vecer newspaper reported on its website.
While Slovenia will step up measures to control the increased flow of migrants, including deploying the army to help police control its border, it doesn’t want a Europe of walls, Prime Minister Miro Cerar told reporters in Ljubljana on Saturday.
Hungary extended an existing barbed-wire fence on its border with Serbia to cover its frontier with Croatia. Orban said this week that his government would complete the barrier if EU leaders fail to agree on closing the Greek border, the main entry point for Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees into the 28-nation bloc.
Rail service between Hungary and Croatia was suspended, Hungarian railways said in a statement on its website. Passenger trains between Croatia and Slovenia also were halted.
Hungary intercepted 6,353 refugees at its borders on Friday, according to police data. More than 180,000 migrants have entered Croatia since Hungary closed its frontier with Serbia in mid-September, prompting refugees to take an alternative route through the Balkan country and back to Hungary or Slovenia, as they seek to reach western European countries.
An EU summit on Thursday failed to reach a final agreement on recruiting Turkey to help control the flow of refugees as Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria threatens to push more people to seek safety. The bloc’s leaders also made little progress on how to redesign the system of distributing immigrants, forming an EU border-guard corps or on ensuring arrivals are properly processed. Several eastern European countries are trying to avoid hosting migrants and are against mandatory quotas for the distribution of refugees within the EU.
The refugee crisis can only be solved by tackling the root causes over the long term, Germany’s Merkel told the youth organization of her Christian Democratic Union at a conference in Hamburg Friday. “The challenge is not to seal ourselves off when we are living in a globalized world.”