Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Chaotic border scrums as Croatia becomes migrant hotspot

Published:Friday | September 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM
People reach out in order to receive aid packages in Tovarnik, Croatia, yesterday.
A woman carries a baby as she goes through a police cordon in Tovarnik, Croatia, yesterday.


Thousands of people poured into Croatia from Serbia yesterday, with some trampling over each other at jammed border points in a rush to get on limited buses and trains. Dozens were injured in the mÍlÈe, and even some guards stood behind trees to protect themselves.

As overwhelmed authorities staggered to handle the chaotic surge, Croatian police said 7,300 people had entered since the first groups started arriving early Wednesday.

The Balkan nation has suddenly become the latest hotspot in the 1,000-mile-plus exodus towards Western Europe after Hungary sealed off its border Tuesday with a razor-wire fence and then used tear gas, batons, and water cannons to keep migrants out. Croatia represents a longer and more arduous route into Europe, but those fleeing violence in their homelands have little choice now.

After bus trips through Serbia, many migrants crossed fields on foot to enter Croatia, where dozens of police directed them to trains and buses heading to refugee centres. Autho-rities warned them to avoid walking in areas along the Serbian border that were still being demined from the country's 1991-95 war.

Early on things were calm, but they soon got out of control.

Hundreds of angry asylum seekers pushed through police lines in the eastern Croatian town of Tovarnik after waiting for hours in the hot sun, demanding to be allowed to move on towards Western Europe. An Associated Press photographer saw one man collapse on the ground and dozens injured.

More than 2,000 men, women, and children had been stuck at the local train station for hours. When buses finally arrived, groups charged towards them, overwhelming Croatian police. The situation calmed down, but some migrants moved off on foot, with police unable to stop them.

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