The migrant crisis in Europe is reported to have deepened after Croatia’s sudden change of its open-door policy. The Croatian government adopted an aggressive push-back policy on September 18, which saw more than 15,000 migrants at the risk of being sent to neighbors Slovenia and Hungary. This move has not only heightened diplomatic tensions between Croatia and its neighbors but has also left migrants in limbo. The Balkan nation maintains that the policy is logical and will stabilize the country.
Neighboring countries have condemned the action taken by Zagreb saying it is a gross violation of international law and will exacerbate the migrant crisis. Aleksandar Vulin, Serbia’s social minister, told reporters, “We will not pay the price of someone else’s incapability. I am sorry to see that Croatian humanity and solidarity lasted just two days.” Hungary, which seized a train with migrants reportedly coming from Croatia, also expressed displeasure at its neighbor’s uncanny push back policy.
Zoltan Kovacs, the government spokesperson, speaking on Hungary’s state television said, “Croatia has committed a serious border violation by encroaching into Hungarian territory with a train carrying not only a thousand people on board, but also 40 Croatian policemen.” Although the spokesperson said that the policemen were in custody for “human trafficking,” the Croatian authorities dismissed the allegations as untrue. Jelena Bikic, Croatian police spokeswoman, told reporters that Hungarian officials had agreed in advance to accommodate the excess refugees. “It is not true. We had an agreement about the escort between the police officers in advance,” she said through an interpreter to Reuters News Agency.
Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic announced on September 18, that migrants were no longer welcome in Croatia. He said the country’s resources could not support the increasing number of migrants. “We have 13,000 registered migrants and our capacities to take more are now saturated,” he said Friday on national television. The Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said that his country has turned down its open door policy in the interest of national security. He said the decision to push back the migrants was one taken after considering all implications of the migrant crisis. “Croatia has shown it has a heart. We also need to show we have a brain,” he said in a news conference.
Refugees, mostly women and children, have expressed frustration at the way the European country has handled the crisis. The migrant crisis in Croatia has left thousands of refugees desperate and hopeless. Ibrahim Yusuf, 25, told reporters, “I am considering returning to Iraq and die like a dog than die an unwanted refugee.” However, Abed, 18, from Syria said he was not going back to Syria. “I am going to Croatia even if the border is closed. I am not turning back, I will keep trying,” said Abed who was with his mother and two siblings at the Croatian border with Hungary. Observers say this migrant crisis will deepen further into a humanitarian disaster if Croatia and other European countries continue to adopt the push-back policy.
Europe has seen large numbers of desperate immigrants coming from conflict zones like Syria and Iraq seeking a better life. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 2,000 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea in an attempt to reach Europe. However, most European countries have failed to resolve the migrant crisis. Two European Union meetings are scheduled to take place next week to discuss, among others, why Croatia has adopted a harsh policy which has grossly violated international law and basic human rights. Croatian adoption of the push-back policy has certainly deepened the migrant crisis in Europe.
By Shepherd Mutsvara
BBC News: Migrant Crisis: Neighbours Squabble After Croatia U-Turn.
New York Times World: 15 000 Migrants Stranded In Croatia By Border Crackdown.
Aljazeera: Hungary Seizes Refugee Train Arriving From Croatia.
Top And Featured Image Courtesy of Refugee Welcome Center’s (Germany) Flickr Page – Creative Commons License.