Officials in Croatia have announced that the Eastern European country is buckling under the flood of thousands of refugees who have entered the country on their path to reach Western Europe, asking newcomers to go to neighboring Hungary or Slovenia instead.
Speaking at a news conference in the border town of Tovarnik on Friday, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said that his country could no longer cope with the trend, and that asylum seekers could not stay.
‘Welcome to Croatia! (Make sure you leave, though!)’
“What else can we do? You are welcome in Croatia and you can pass through Croatia. But go on. Not because we don’t like you, but because this is not your final destination,” Milanovic said.
The premier also called upon the 28-member European Union (EU) to step in and help, saying, “We have a heart but we also have a brain.”
Earlier in the day, Zagreb began transporting hundreds of refugees to the border with Hungary.
However, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto slammed Croatia for encouraging the asylum seekers to illegally cross the border to his country.
“Instead of helping people, Croatia is encouraging masses and masses of people to commit a criminal offence – illegal crossing of the border is a criminal offense,” Szijjarto told a news conference.
Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said the first phase of a 41-kilometer (25-mile) barrier on the border with Croatia will be completed on Friday.
He said as many as 1,800 soldiers and 800 police will be being sent to the border with Croatia over the next days to bar refugee entries.
The developments come only two days after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “shocked” by Hungary’s actions, saying people “fleeing war and persecution... must be treated with human dignity.”
Top refugee spot
The Slovenian Interior Ministry also said on Friday that the nation of 2.05 million has no basis on which it would allow a corridor for refugees en route to Western Europe.
“At the moment, we have no basis on which we could form a corridor,” the ministry’s State Secretary Bostjan Sefic said.
Germany has become the top destination for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing wars and misery in Syria and elsewhere. The country is expecting up to a million refugees in 2015, up from 200,000 last year.
Many of the asylum seekers reach Germany after taking a perilous route through the Balkans and Central Europe.
‘US to blame for refugee crisis’
Interviewed by Press TV, author David Swanson called the Croatian decision not to let in more refugees “absolutely outrageous.”
“We need to end the idea that nations should be keeping anyone out; nations need to be admitting refugees to the extent needed,” he said.
Swanson said, however, that the primary problem causing the crisis in the first place should also be given attention.
The refugees have been displaced “because of the wars and the climate change and the economic disasters for which the United States is the primary party along with its European allies, [which are] responsible for destroying Iraq, and Libya and other parts of the region.”