Croatia closes road borders with Serbia

Croatia closes seven of its eight border crossings with Serbia as the refugee crisis continues
 

Croatia has closed seven of its eight road border crossings with Serbia following a huge influx of refugees over the past few days.

According to international media, officials said they had no choice after more than 10,000 people entered the country a day after Hungary fenced off its border with Serbia. Croatian officials also said roads leading to the border crossings had also been shut.

The BBC reports that the closures have cut off the refugees’ main land route from Greece to northern Europe.

Croatia has tried to take people to asylum centres but the overwhelming numbers mean that many people have been left on the streets, with some even saying they plan to walk north to neighbouring Slovenia which is in the EU's border-free Schengen Area, stopped a group of refugees on a train and returned them to Croatia.

On Thursday, Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said his country was "absolutely full", and Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said the country had "limited capacity".

Scuffles broke out in two locations on the border with Serbia on Thursday after people were left waiting for hours for transport and crowds briefly broke through police lines at Tovarnik and Batina - two of the crossings now closed.

Hungary's decision to seal its border with Serbia triggered the move by thousands of people, who had travelled to Serbia via Macedonia and Greece, to try to reach Western Europe via Croatia instead. On Wednesday, images of Hungarian police trying to disperse people with tear gas and water cannon were hugely criticised and caused great concern around the world.

Huge numbers of people heading north from the Mediterranean have created a political crisis in the European Union and it has even challenged the Schengen agreement, as Germany, Austria and Slovakia have decided to start passport checks at the borders.

The EU has called a leaders' summit for 23 September to discuss the crisis, after the member states couldn’t agree on a mandatory relocation system for refugees.

The European Parliament has voted to back plans for the mandatory relocation of 120,000 refugees around the EU, but interior ministers from EU countries have not so far been able to reach agreement on the plan. Germany and France are in favour of the proposals - but Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are among several EU members which are strongly opposed. However, on Thursday the Czech prime minister indicated his country could voluntarily offer asylum to around 10,000 refugees - far more than the 1,500 the Czech Republic has so far agreed to accept.

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