Sunday 21 January 2018

Slovenia deploys its army to stem relentless migrant tide

A mounted policeman leads a group of migrants near Dobova, Slovenia yesterday.
A mounted policeman leads a group of migrants near Dobova, Slovenia yesterday.

Karl Vlock Belgrade

Slovenia has announced that it will deploy the army to guard its border and appealed for help from the European Union as migrants entered the country and thousands spent another cold night outside in the Balkans.

Attempts by Slovenia to ration the flow of migrants since Hungary sealed its border with Croatia at midnight on Friday have triggered a knock-on effect through the Balkans, with thousands held up at border crossings.

At least 12,100 migrants are currently in Serbia, that country's prime minister said last night, and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reported at least 2,500 migrants stranded in no-man's-land between Croatia and Serbia.

By late morning yesterday, 5,000 migrants had entered Slovenia, after some 8,000 in total had crossed the border on Monday, the Slovenian interior ministry said.


Bostjan Sefic, interior state secretary, said he could not exclude the possibility of "safeguarding border crossings with physical obstacles", as he responded to a question about whether or not Slovenia would follow Hungary's example in setting up a fence.

As the smallest country on the Balkan migration route, Slovenia had "limited possibilities of border control and accommodating migrants", the government said.

Slovenia, which borders Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Italy, has a population of two million.

"Therefore, Slovenia publicly calls upon the (EU) member states and the European institutions to actively engage in taking over this burden," the government said. At the Berkasovo border crossing between Serbia and Croatia, Jamal, a 50-year-old Syrian from the city of Tartus, spent the night there with his daughter and wife.

"It was very cold, very, very cold, we are shivering, we received some food, but (there were) no tents for everybody, so we slept under a van, they gave us blankets," Jamal said.

In the morning, hundreds of people bypassed a border checkpoint and police cordon and walked straight into Croatia along a path between an orchard and a vineyard.

Croatian authorities said more than 2,000 people were sheltered in the Opatovac camp near the border. From there. buses were taking them to the nearest train station in Tovarnik or straight to the Slovenian border.

Croatia's interior minister said his country was trying to co-ordinate the transfer of migrants with Slovenia, which has accused its neighbour of failing to manage the relentless flow of people.

Ranko Ostojic Croatia had asked Slovenian police on Monday where they wanted to receive the migrants, but had yet to receive a reply.

He added: "If we are receiving 10,000, then 5,000 people have to be transited on to Slovenia. If the number in Croatia is 5,000, then it's 2,500, or 50pc."

Irish Independent

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