Updated at 12:45 p.m. ET
Within a day of becoming the latest focus of Europe’s migrant crisis, Croatia has attracted some 20,000 refugees, while hundreds more are starting to trickle into neighboring Slovenia as they make their way toward the northern EU states.
The influx of so many people into the Balkan nation of just over 4 million people has strained relations with Hungary, which closed its border with Serbia earlier this week by stepping up patrols and stringing razor wire, causing desperate refugees to choose alternate crossing points.
As The Associated Press reports: “Asylum-seekers who headed westward into Croatia after being beaten back by tear gas and water cannons on the Hungarian-Serbian border just days earlier found themselves being returned to Serbia or to Hungary, after Croatia declared it could not handle the influx.
Zagreb acknowledges that it has “forced” its neighbor to take thousands of the migrants, fleeing fighting in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, in a move that has angered Budapest.
“Croatia has let down not just Hungary but the [European Union] and has given up on all legal commitments that bind it,” Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told reporters.
“The Croatian system for handling migrants and refugees has collapsed, basically in one day,” he said.
Lauren Frayer, reporting from the border region for NPR, says most of the migrants are heading for Germany, “but they still have to cross Slovenia and Austria” to get there.
Croatia’s Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told reporters: “You know that we have to be realistic. You know that they don’t want to be here. They are not seeing the future here in Croatia.”
The Guardian reports of the standoff between Zagreb and Budapest:
“Croatia has bused hundreds of migrants to its border with Hungary, ratcheting up tensions in Europe’s refugee crisis as police fired tear gas to drive back several hundred people trying to enter Slovenia. …
“Croatia earlier said it had reached saturation point after more than 17,000 people arrived on its soil in the last two days, and began [channeling] the flow towards hardline Hungary, which has vowed to ‘defend its borders’ from the influx.”
Elsewhere, the BBC reports:
“[Hundreds] of people slept on a motorway near Edirne in north-western Turkey, after Turkish police stopped them from crossing the border into Greece on Friday evening.”
“As controls have got tighter, many migrants have strayed from transport routes, walking through cornfields to reach borders.”