Crowds of migrants have scuffled with Croatian police in at least two places along the border with Serbia as they seek to enter the European Union. They briefly broke through police lines at Tovarnik and Bezdan after hours waiting in full sun. At least 8,900 migrants entered Croatia on Thursday, officials said, after Hungary closed its border, blocking the previous land route into the EU.
Croatia’s interior minister says the country is “absolutely full”. EU leaders will hold an emergency summit next week to discuss the crisis. Croatia’s president has asked the army to be ready to protect its borders from “the illegal migration”, state news agency Hina reported (in Croatian).
Officials say migrants must apply for asylum there or be treated as illegal immigrants. Under EU regulations, refugees must register and claim asylum in the first member state they reach. Correspondents described the scenes in Tovarnik as mayhem, after several thousand migrants who had crossed from Serbia were held back by riot police, trying to get them to wait for transport on from the border.
Croatian police eventually gave way under pressure. Some of the migrants said they intended to walk to neighbouring Slovenia. Slovenia, like Hungary, is an entry point to the Schengen zone, which normally allows people to travel between member countries without restrictions. Many migrants are exhausted. Supplies of food and water are running low.
All morning several thousand people had waited in the heat hoping a train would take them north on their long journey to Germany. Around midday we saw a group of young men begin to mobilise for a protest.
At first they tried to walk towards Zagreb on the rail line but were turned back by the police. They then walked to the police line on the road next to the station. For about an hour they chanted “let us go” and pressed the police to be allowed through. Eventually police allowed some women and children to squeeze past their line. Scenes of chaos followed. Men tried to push through. Children became separated from parents.
The police did not resort to force. There was no use of batons or tear gas. They attempted to push the crowd back but could not prevent a breach. I saw hundreds pushing through a wire fence and running towards the main road. On the way a man suffered a heart attack.
A combination of angry young men, extraordinary numbers of people and a lack of any coherent plan by the EU has produced scenes of chaos in Europe.(BBC)