Croatia puts migrants on buses to Hungary
By Eszter Zalan
Croatia started transporting migrants to Hungary by bus on Friday (18 September) after the country’s prime minister said Croatia cannot cope with the influx and will redirect people towards Hungary and Slovenia instead.
Croatian police put refugees on to more than 10 buses in Beli Manastir, a small town 6 km from the Hungarian border, and some 30 km from the Serbian border.
They transported them to the border town of Baranjsko Petrovo Selo (called Beremend on the Hungarian side), and left them at the border, closing down the entry point to go back to Croatia.
The refugees were shocked and devastated to find out where they were.
“Croatia is a liar!”, said one, when he realised where he’d been dropped off.
Migrants told EUobserver the Croatian police had informed them that they would be transported to Zagreb for registration.
“When we checked on the GPS, we saw that they were taking us to Hungary. I asked the driver why? He said: ‘Why not?’,” a Syrian man from Aleppo in the crowd noted, while holding his crying wife’s hand.
“Is this the way Europe treats people?” asked another perplexed man.
For their part, Hungarian police surrounded the 1,500-or-so refugees and put them on buses, albeit very slowly and in scorching sun.
Some were dehydrated and an ambulance was on site to help. Once they moved into Hungary, an aid agency handed out water.
On the Hungarian side, the army was also present, with a military Humvee parked behind a line of soldiers.
Croatia’s surprise move came only an hour after the country’s prime minister, Zoran Milovanovic, told press Croatia cannot cope with the arrivals after 13,000 people came in two days.
He said Croatia will redirect people toward Hungary and Slovenia.
Croatia has also given up on registering people under EU rules.
The so-called Dublin laws on asylum call for claimants to be registered in the first country they enter in the EU.
Hungary’s foreign minister on Friday called Croatia’s behavior “pathetic.”
Peter Szijjarto said in a statement that instead of abiding by EU rules, Croatia was encouraging thousands of migrants to cross the border illegally.
Hungary has begun to build a fence on its border with Croatia and will set up a “transit zone” near the village of Beremend where migrants entering from Croatia can request asylum.