We travelled the new refugee route

Author: Tamás Német Original title:  A menekültek új útvonalán jártunk
Publication: index.hu, Photo:MTI-Zoltán MÁTHÉ Date: 0:11 17/09/2015

We travelled the new refugee route

Now that the route through Croatia is brand new, we travelled to Sid on the Serbian-Croatian border to take a look. Half of the world’s press thought to do the same, consequently the press outnumbered the refugees at times. We encountered a sad, surreal scenes as well. But this was only the begging, buses from the Macedonian-Greek border are already leaving for Croatia.

As expected, the Hungarian government closed its southern border and the closure is enforced with great severity on the remaining, smaller group of people following the “Great Bus Trip”. Some of the refugees travelling towards the EU are trying to make their way through Röszke regardless, but the majority seek alternative routes.

The Serbian and Croatian states lent a helping hand in recalculating the route so the refugees were transported by bus from the Macedonian-Serbian border in the beginning. Later transport was organised from the Serbian-Hungarian border (Magyarkanizsa) as well to a border crossing point into Croatia, in Sid, about 200 km from the Hungarian border.

Initially news outlets mentioned the town of Zombor closer to the Hungarian border but because the Croatians are transporting refugees in Zagreb’s direction, the Sid probably seemed like a better and more practical crossing point considering everything, i.e., the motorway there.

This route is only two days old so we did not meet great crowds but a refugees kept arriving by bus and by taxi. The process looks practically the same as at the Austrian border at Hegyeshalom. The bus or the taxi transporting refugees arrives at the border crossing point two kilometers from the bigger crossing point by the motorway, then the refugees walk onto the dirt road then walk to the Serbian-Croatian border through the cornfields.

Once there, Croatian police awaits them with minivans and they are taken to the distribution camp in the small border town, then they travel to Zagreb, where, everyone is said to be registered. Although the Croatian Minister of the Interiors said that the registration will be serious and that whoever refuses to submit themselves to it will be extradited, but he also said that they plan to initiate negotiations with the Slovenians about a route for refugees to take them directly to Austria. Until then the Croatian national railway runs trains from Zagreb to Vinkovci on the Croatian-Serbian border so refugees can be transported on from there.

Although the route is brand new Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán already announced that Hungary is to build a fence on the Hungarian-Croatian border in addition to the one on the Serbia-Hungarian border. The Croatian government stated that Zagreb I can receive 1500 refugees a day, and Slovenia announced that it will restore temporary border control on the Slovenian-Hungarian border (Austrians will do the same on the Austrian-Slovenian border). Apart from strengthening its borders, Slovenia is mobilizing its police and deploying helicopters on the Slovenian-Hungarian and Slovenian-Croatian borders.

Slovenian officials already talked about the possibility of this new route opening up at the end of August and they started preparing for the potential wave of refugees. State-Secretary Sefic Bostjan when asked how many refugees Slovenia is capable of receiving said “the present capacity is around 5-7 thousand but everyone will be provided for”.

The Croatians are presently calculating with 1500 refugees in Zagreb but if the need arises this number can be increased. There’s a strong likelihood that the need will indeed arise the next couple of thousand refugees arriving to Serbia from Macedonia probably won’t even try the Hungarian border. Considering the 1500-person capacity on the Serbian-Croatian border, mass atrocities, similar to those earlier in Hungary, may well occur.

At night at Horgas (Serbia), refugees talked about not wanting to go towards Croatia at all; they fear that the open border is just a scam and in reality they won’t be able to move on from there either, and that they will be arrested , etc.

But the dirt-road border crossing point at Sid and the surrounding area is calm for now. The number of migrants arriving are easy to handle. When we got here, there was actually more press (local and international) than refugees.

Until the arrival of the next bus, a girl crossing the border in a wheelchair and her family arriving on a bus (with the help of a local camera crew, probably) was the only suitable photo/video subject. The crew that brought the family to the border tried to make the most of the situation. “Now! Stop!”, “Now walk!”, “Don’t look back now!”, “Now, look back!” they instructed the family loudly, creating a slightly surreal scene. They went as far as to stop our car so the last picture of the refugee family turning back and waving would be suitably pretty.

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