Refugees, most of them fleeing the conflict in Syria, have rerouted themselves through Croatia to get into the European Union (EU) as the situation at the closed Hungarian border with Serbia deteriorates.
Hungary has erected a fence along its border with Serbia in to prevent the influx of refugees from flooding into the country, instead trying to direct refugees through legal channels. In an effort to circumnavigate the blockade, refugees have started heading to the border between Serbia and Croatia.
So far, according to the BBC, the number of refugees is small, with only 150 refugees being reported by early Wednesday, but that number is expected to increase.
With refugees beginning to stream towards Croatia, however, there is a new risk that the refugees must face. The border area between Serbia and Croatia is filled with up to 50,000 land mines left over from the Balkan War of the 1990s, according to the Daily Mail. Without locals guiding the refugees through the minefield, refugees will not know how to safely pass through the area.
Hungary declared a state of emergency over the refugee crisis as they erected the border fence. It is now illegal to damage or illegally breach the fence, which led to 367 refugees being arrested for illegal entry. This morning, riots broke out along the border between mostly young refugee men and Hungarian security forces, while the first group of refugees arrested for illegal entry went to court.
According to USA Today, as the refugees began to reach the Croatian border, the Prime Minister of the country, Zoran Milanovic, criticized Hungary for closing its border with Serbia to the refugees and made a pledge to help the refugees to Croatia’s parliament.
“We are ready to accept and direct those people … they will be able to pass through Croatia and we are working intensively to enable that.”
Most of the refugees are only wishing to pass through countries like Hungary and Croatia on their way to Germany or Austria, where they hope to claim refugee status. But, Hungary remains defiant in their approach to the refugee situation, and is looking to build a fence along the border with Romania to keep refugees out.
According to the Telegraph, Romania recalled the Hungarian Ambassador, complaining that Hungary did not consult the country about its plans to build a fence along the Hungary-Romania border, and felt the decision was “out of step with the spirit of Europe.”
However, as criticism of Hungary on their decision to close its border to prevent refugees from streaming in undocumented, other countries in the EU appear to following their lead. France’s Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, declared that it will also seal its border if the need arises.
“We already restored temporary controls in spring (on the Italian border) and we won’t hesitate to do it again as the rules of Schengen [a treaty agreement that allows free passage between countries within the Schengen area] allow when circumstances require it.”
Even Bashar Assad, the President of Syria, where many of the refugees are streaming to Europe from, took aim at the EU, as reported by USA Today, accusing them of allowing the refugee crisis to happen by supporting “terrorists.”
“It’s not about that Europe didn’t accept them or embrace them as refugees, it’s about not dealing with the cause. If you are worried about them, stop supporting terrorists. That’s what we think regarding the [refugee] crisis.”
As the refugee crisis continues, changes to how countries in the EU will respond to the flood of refugees are happening at a staggering rate, but the refugees are dedicated in their resolve to get to Western European countries and only wish to use countries like Serbia, Croatia, and Hungary as a passage to get deeper into Europe to claim refugee status in more prosperous countries.
[Photo from Getty Images / Jeff J Mitchell]