Croatia 'Forcing' Hungary To Take Migrants
Croatia will “force” Hungary to accept migrants by continuing to send them to the border, its PM says.
Zoran Milanovic’s statement was the latest in an increasingly bad-tempered exchange of views over how to handle the migrant influx.
Hungary has accused Croatia of breaking international law by not registering migrants – one minister reportedly calling Mr Milanovic “pathetic”.
Croatia says more than 20,000 migrants have entered since Wednesday.
Some 8,000 passed into Hungary on Friday, the Hungarian authorities said. New busloads began arriving at the Beremend border crossing on Saturday, with the migrants offloaded and transferred to Hungarian buses.
Croatia’s response has typified the EU confusion over how to handle the crisis – migrants were initially welcomed to travel through the country, but then borders were hastily closed to regulate the flow as the government said numbers had become untenable.
In Hungary, migrants have at times been met with tear gas and water cannon as they try to push their way north. In Slovenia police used pepper spray on one group.
Most of the migrants, many fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, want to go to Germany or the Scandinavian countries.
Their march through Europe is becoming a race against the changing political mood of its nation states, says the BBC’s Lucy Williamson in Croatia.
Each day now there are new routes and new rules marking the map of Europe – and without a pan-European solution, it is every nation for itself, she says.
The EU is to hold emergency talks next week.
A five-year-old girl has become one of the latest victims of the chaotic situation after she died when a boat she was travelling on to the Greek island of Lesbos sank, the Greek coastguard said.
At least 13 other migrants on board the boat are missing.
Amid government divisions over how to handle the crisis, migrants have found their paths blocked – with many sleeping at railway stations or by roadsides.
Hundreds of people slept on a motorway near Edirne in north-western Turkey, after Turkish police stopped them from crossing the border into Greece on Friday evening.
Croatia says some border crossings remain open but that it has been forced to close others because of the sheer volume of migrants.
It says the weight of numbers – particularly since Hungary sealed its border with Serbia – means its only option is to allow the migrants to pass through, and has called for a unified EU response.
“There has not been an agreement with Hungary,” Mr Milanovic told reporters.
“We forced them, by sending people up there. And we’ll keep doing it,” he said in the north-eastern town of Beli Manastir, from where buses and trains packed with migrants were sent north to Hungary on Friday.
Mr Milanovic said the migrants “want to leave the country, so this is the only way, for us to let them pass through in a civilised way”.
He also blamed Greece and Turkey for failing to prevent migrants crossing into Europe by sea.
Hungary again lashed out at Croatia on Saturday. Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said: “Instead of honestly making provision for the immigrants, it sent them straight to Hungary. What kind of European solidarity is this?”
Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs accused Croatia of “intentional participation in people smuggling”.
Slovenia said Croatia had broken the rules of both the EU and the Schengen free movement area.
Hungary has taken a tough line on the migrant influx, and on Saturday called up army reservists to assist.
It enacted tough laws this week after erecting a razor-wire fence along its Serbian border, making it a criminal offence to cross it. It says it will impose the same conditions once the fence along its Croatian border is completed in the next few days.
Asylum seekers want to reach Hungary and Slovenia, which are in the borderless Schengen Area, en route to more prosperous northern European countries – with Germany the favourite destination.
The EU has been strongly criticised for its failure to co-ordinate a response.
Interior ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday in another attempt to agree on relocating migrants with binding quotas for each state.
The next day, EU leaders will hold an extraordinary summit on migration.