Mi­grants surge west into Slove­nia as Hun­gary closes off its ter­ri­tory

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY AMER CO­HADZIC

peti­sovci, slove­nia — Thou­sands of mi­grants surged into tiny Slove­nia on Satur­day as they des­per­ately searched for a new pas­sage­way to Western Europe.

The clo­sure of Hun­gary’s bor­der with Croa­tia early Satur­day redi­rected thou­sands of peo­ple — in­clud­ing women and chil­dren soaked by cold rain — far­ther west to­ward Croa­tia’s bor­der with Slove­nia. Croa­t­ian po­lice said that more than 5,000 mi­grants have en­tered the coun­try since the bor­der clo­sure.

Sev­eral buses packed with mi­grants ar­rived in the Slove­nian bor­der town of Peti­sovci on Satur­day. A train car­ry­ing 1,800 peo­ple ar­rived at the bor­der in the af­ter­noon. Po­lice said that af­ter pro­cess­ing, most are trans­ferred to­ward the Aus­trian bor­der.

The small Euro­pean Union mem­ber state, how­ever, has lim­ited ca­pac­ity to process large num­bers head­ing to wealth­ier E.U. coun­tries such as Ger­many, Aus­tria and Swe­den. This could leave thou­sands stranded in Croa­tia and far­ther east and south, in Ser­bia and Mace­do­nia — the coun­tries on the so-called Balkan mi­grant cor­ri­dor.

The U.N. refugee agency said Slove­nia has the ca­pac­ity to ac­cept some 7,000 mi­grants a day. Slove­nian of­fi­cials said, how­ever, that they can per­mit only as many as 2,500 peo­ple a day and will al­low new groups to en­ter only af­ter pre­vi­ous groups leave the coun­try.

A spokes­woman for the U.N. High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees said at Slove­nia’s bor­der with Croa­tia on Satur­day that “all is go­ing well” as the first groups of mi­grants started ar­riv­ing in the small Alpine na­tion.

“We have been in cold since 2 in the morn­ing in Ser­bia,” said Omar Thaqfa, 33, who said he is from Mo­sul in north­ern Iraq. “We were sit­ting in the street. Very cold. In­shal­lah, I am go­ing to Ger­many.”

Slove­nia, a na­tion of some 2 mil­lion, has said it will tighten bor­der con­trols and cre­ate en­try points for mi­grants to man­age the in­flux but will con­tinue ac­cept­ing mi­grants as long as Aus­tria and Ger­many keep their bor­ders open. Croa­tia has said it will close its bor­der with Ser­bia if Slove­nia does the same with Croa­tia.

Mi­grants had been pass­ing through Croa­tia to get to Hun­gary and then far­ther west. But Hun­gary blocked that route af­ter mid­night when po­lice pulled a barbed-wire fence over a pas­sage on the bor­der with Croa­tia where about 190,000 mi­grants have passed since mid-Septem­ber.

Croa­t­ian In­te­rior Min­is­ter Ranko Os­to­jic said Hun­gary’s bor­der clo­sure will not stop the flow of hun­dreds of thou­sands of mi­grants from the Mid­dle East, Asia and Africa who have been surg­ing into Europe, seek­ing to es­cape war or eco­nomic hard­ship.

“No­body can stop this flow with­out shoot­ing,” Os­to­jic said, adding that fur­ther fron­tier clo­sures would cause “a domino ef­fect and lot of trou­bles for all coun­tries” that are on the mi­grant route.

More than 383,000 mi­grants have en­tered Hun­gary this year, nearly all pass­ing through on their way to Ger­many and other des­ti­na­tions in the E.U. How­ever, the in­flux has trig­gered a back­lash.

A dis­used school in south­ern Swe­den that was to house 80 refugees was burned to the ground in a case of “ag­gra­vated ar­son,” author­i­ties there said Satur­day. And a lead­ing can­di­date to be mayor of Cologne, Ger­many, was stabbed and se­ri­ously wounded Satur­day by a man who claimed an­tifor­eigner mo­tives. Ger­many’s in­te­rior min­is­ter said the at­tack un­der­lined grow­ing con­cerns over ha­tred and vi­o­lence amid the mi­grant cri­sis.

Thou­sands of new ar­rivals a day have stretched Ger­many’s ca­pac­ity to house refugees and other mi­grants. But Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel said she will not prom­ise “false so­lu­tions,” be­cause they will not hold up even for two weeks and will cre­ate big­ger dis­ap­point­ment that the prob­lem has not been re­solved.

“I am work­ing with all my power for sus­tain­able so­lu­tions, and they don’t de­pend on us Ger­mans alone and will take time,” she said.

“We have been in cold since 2 in the morn­ing in Ser­bia. . . . We were sit­ting in the street. Very cold. In­shal­lah, I am go­ing to Ger­many.”

Omar Thaqfa, a mi­grant in Europe who said he came from the Iraqi city of Mo­sul

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