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Thousands arrive in Croatia after migrant clashes at Hungary border

17 september 2015, 15:19
0

Thousands of migrants arrived in Croatia early Thursday seeking to open up a new route to northern Europe, after Hungary sealed its border, sparking ferocious clashes with angry refugees, AFP reports.

Around 4,000 migrants had arrived in EU member state from Serbia in the last 24 hours, the state-run television channel HRT said, as a special train transporting some 800 migrants from Tovarnik, near the Serbian border, arrived in Dugo Selo, near Zagreb, an AFP photographer reported.

The UN's refugee agency said later that between 4,000 and 5,000 refugees were trying to reach the Croatian capital by train.

They are desperate to get around the border fence Hungary has thrown up along its border with Serbia, where tensions boiled into violence Wednesday at the flashpoint Horgos-Roszke crossing, after around 500 refugees had been blocked on their march north.

Furious people tore down the wire meshing separating them from Hungarian territory, and police clashed for hours with hundreds of migrants, some of whom threw stones, sticks and plastic bottles as police used tear gas and water cannon.

The unrest left 14 police officers injured, the authorities said.

    Situation calm 

The situation at the crossing -- one of the main junctions in the migrant route north towards Germany and Sweden -- was calm early Thursday, AFP reporters said.

Around 400 migrants had slept in sleeping bags on the road, while others had spent the night in neighbouring fields.

Hungary's tough stance earned it a rebuke from Serbia over the use of tear gas on its territory, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was "shocked."

Gyorgy Bakondi, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief adviser, said the response had come after migrants had issued an "ultimatum" to police, demanding to be let through.

"We will repair the fence, in fact we will put up a stronger fence," he told a news conference.

On Tuesday, Hungary closed the razorwire-topped border and implemented new laws threatening three-year jail sentences against anyone who crosses illegally.

Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic said the country was prepared for the arrival of migrants displaced by the Hungarian move.

But it could not cope if the numbers increased dramatically.

"We are ready to (provide) asylum to a few thousand people and we can handle that, but we are not ready for tens of thousands," Pusic told HRT.

"We do not have capacities" for such an influx, she added.

From the Alps to Istanbul, thousands of other migrants were caught in similar bottlenecks, with hundreds setting out to walk to Germany from the Austrian border city of Salzburg after trains north were suspended.

In Paris, authorities Thursday started to clear two makeshift camps housing more than 500 migrants and offered them accommodation in various centres.

   Political pressure 

Pressure is building for an EU summit to come up with solutions to the continent's worst migration crisis since World War II, with the bloc bitterly split and free movement across borders -- a pillar of the European project -- in jeopardy.

EU President Donald Tusk was to announce a decision on Thursday on whether to call the summit. 

Also Thursday, the European Parliament in Brussels was to hold a special vote on plans to relocate 120,000 refugees from Greece, Hungary and Italy, after EU ministers failed to reach agreement earlier this week.

One of the big fears is for the future of Europe's 20-year-old Schengen agreement, which allows borderless travel between some member states, and is considered as important as the euro by many EU supporters.

Germany, Austria and Slovakia have all reimposed identity checks on parts of their borders, and Poland and the Netherlands are considering whether to follow suit.


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