Overwhelmed Croatia sends thousands of migrants to Hungary

Laszlo Laufer, AFP | Hungarian soldiers and police stand guard as migrants get into a bus in Beremend near the Hungarian-Croatian border on September 18

Croatian authorities sent more than 4,000 migrants to the border with Hungary on Friday, a day after Zagreb said it could no longer deal with the influx of displaced people. Hungary also began shuttling hundreds of refugees to Austria.


Thousands of migrants arrived by train at the Hungarian village of Magyarboly on Friday as Croatia dispatched an overflow of refugees to its northern neighbour. Croatia earlier sent hundreds of migrants by bus to other border checkpoints.

A spokesman for the Hungarian government said Croatian authorities had been sending the migrants into Hungary without prior consultation. Hungarian authorities said 4,000 migrants had arrived in Hungary from Croatia on Friday alone, with between 1,000 and 2,000 more expected by the end of the day.

Overstretched Croatia said that it had reached saturation point on Thursday after more than 14,000 refugees arrived in just 48 hours.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that Croatia was encouraging thousands of migrants to cross the border illegally, which Hungary now considers a felony under new rules that came into force this week.

In a statement late on Friday, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker offered Croatia technical and logistical assistance for coping with the flood of migrants crossing its border ahead of an extraordinary summit on migration next week, the commission said in a statement.

More than 17,000 migrants have entered Croatia since Wednesday morning, Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said Friday.

Passing the buck

Hungary, in turn, transported hundreds of refugees who were on its territory towards its border with Austria on Friday. A frontline EU state, Hungary has vowed to "defend its borders" from the influx.

A spokesman for Austria's Interior Ministry said Budapest had not coordinated the move with Vienna, and that it reserved the right to deny entry to migrants coming from Hungary if they do not want to apply for asylum.

“The legal framework allows for the possibility of sending migrants back, refusing entry or allowing entry,” the spokesman said.

Austria introduced tougher border checks on Wednesday.

Tens of thousands of migrants have been making their way through the Balkans and Austria towards Germany.

Austria expects around 1,500 migrants to cross its eastern border with Hungary and will allow or deny entry – in line with the "principle of proportionality" – according to whether the migrants wish to request asylum or not.

Humanitarian groups have appealed for a more unified response among European nations. A spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency, Babar Baloch, said countries cannot hope to cope with the crisis individually.

"What's missing is a collective EU action," he said. "Countries have been trying to deal with it on their own and then at some stage they say they can't. So they need to do it together."

The UNHCR says that more than 442,440 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe this year and 2,921 have died trying to make the journey. However, the International Organization for Migration puts those figures at 473,887 and 2,812 respectively.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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