Hello to our friends and readers from around the world. Europe is currently experiencing its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. Many refugees fleeing war in the Middle East first pass through the “Balkan route” or “Balkan corridor” en route to countries in the EU. Here we hope to occasionally provide updates and commentary relevant to this Balkan segment of that journey, including information about fissures in the fragmenting EU policy towards new arrivals, as well as assist in building upon a list of resources for refugees and those assisting them. As usual, we ask our readers, especially those in Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Greece, Hungary and Slovenia, who have always added so much to Balkanist, to send us any updated information, new resources, photos, video, and other relevant news to editor[AT]balkanist.net or to tweet it to us @balkanist so we can compile it here. (Please scroll to the bottom of this page to access a list of resources).
13:00 CET: Bosnia-Herzegovina appears to have changed its position somewhat on the reception of refugees:
— Jasmin Mujanović (@JasminMuj) September 18, 2015
12:30 CET: Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanović held a special press conference at noon on Friday to address the refugee crisis. He emphasized that refugees could pass through Croatia en route to northern Europe. Milanovic also said that “barbed wire is not the answer”, and that to completely seal the country’s borders would be “impossible”. Though Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of the nationalist HDZ party put the military on alert yesterday, Milanovic, who belongs to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said today that deploying troops to borders was not an option.
11:45 CET: Volunteers from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia continue to help refugees in Belgrade.
10:55 CET: With nearly all of Croatia’s border crossings with Serbia now closed, and Slovenia’s prime minister announcing that the country would not establish a corridor for refugee transport, there has been some speculation that Bosnia-Herzegovina could become a detour destination. Izet Nizam, a deputy in the foreigners’ affairs office, told the Bosnian portal Klix.ba that the country is capable of receiving 700 refugees. Nizam also said that though no refugees had crossed into Bosnia yet, certain cities near the Serbian border, such as Bijelina, were preparing for the possible arrival of refugees.
9:35 CET: Hungarian and Croatian media have reported that Hungary has begun construction of a temporary 41 mile-long fence along the Croatian border that Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called a “preliminary line of defense”. Orban said the fence will be completed today. The Hungarian PM also vowed “to take the same measures [on the Croatian border] that were used in Serbia”. On Hungary’s border with Serbia earlier this week, water canons and tear gas were used on refugees. Orban added that Hungarian authorities had already arrested a “terrorist”.
9:15 CET: Croatian media is reporting that the country’s minister of health, Siniša Varga, has declared an elevated “green” threat level to health, and demanded that doctors and medical personnel in the areas where refugees are currently located be on 24-hour alert.
9:00 CET: Laszlo Toroczkai, mayor of the Hungarian town of Asotthaloma on the Serbian border, has recorded a terrifying, action movie-inspired video warning refugees about entering Hungary. The clip includes dramatic music, motorcycles and helicopters. Some media outlets in the region have described the video as “threatening”. See for yourself.
7:50 CET: Vuk Jeremic, Serbia’s former foreign minister and current UN Secretary General aspirant, tweeted his commentary on the crisis:
7:30 CET: Slovenia’s Press Agency is reporting that more than 100 refugees have been detained for illegally crossing into the country at night, and that Croatia is refusing to take them back. Meanwhile, last night a train carrying 150 refugees bound for Slovenia was stopped at the Dobova border and passengers were not allowed to enter the country. In response to the refugee crisis, all railway traffic between Slovenia and Croatia has been suspended until at least 18:00 today.
7:10 CET: Serbia’s Minister of Labor Aleksandar Vulin says the country is getting ready to receive “a potentially larger inflow of migrants from Bulgaria” at the Dimitrovgrad border crossing.
7:00 CET: The refugee crisis has given nationalist politicians in the region another opportunity to criticize one another. Aleksandar Vulin, Serbia’s Minister of Labor and Social Policy, said yesterday that he “was sorry that Croatia’s humanity and solidarity had only lasted two days.” Both Serbia and Croatia will hold elections soon, and the public perception of the government’s handling of the refugee crisis will undoubtedly figure prominently in the campaigns.
6:30 CET: As of 22:00 last night, 11,003 refugees had crossed into Croatia. The interior ministry says that border crossings with Serbia will remain closed “until further notice”.
6:00 CET: Croatia has closed its borders with Serbia after more than 10,000 refugees crossed into the country since Hungary sealed its border with Serbia. Croatia’s Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said: “Don’t come here any more. Stay in refugee centres in Serbia and Macedonia and Greece. This is not the road to Europe. Buses can’t take you there. It’s a lie.” The town of Tovarnik near the border with Serbia was briefly the site of confrontation with Croatian authorities after refugees broke through a police cordon. Thousands of refugees have gathered in the border town, hoping to board a train out of the country.
September 17, 2015
20:30 CET: The first train with refugees arrives at the Slovenian border town of Dobova
While we fix some technical glitches with our site, we suggest our readers check out Balkan Insight’s excellent live updates about the refugee crisis. Thanks!
11:00: According to DW, Croatia’s prime minister has warned that it has “limited capacity to accept refugees”.
10:40: The European Commission has issued a statement following the vote of the European Parliament in favor of an emergency relocation mechanism for a further 120,000 refugees. Read it in full here.
09:55: Serbia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic has issued a statement on the events in Horgos yesterday, in which Hungarian authorities used tear gas and water cannons on refugees attempting to cross the Serbian-Hungarian border. Dacic said that Serbia will communicate to Hungary that a repetition of such events should not happen on Serbian territory.
09:45: According to police in Croatia, 5,650 refugees have entered the country in the last 24 hours. Most have entered through Sid.
09:30: Croatian police welcome refugees (Photos via Facebook page “Dear Refugees: Welcome to Croatia“) 09:00:
September 16, 2015
14:00: The writing on the wall in Belgrade, Serbia:
13:30: Football Diplomacy: #RefugeesWelcome: As Balkanist’s sports editor Dario Brentin has been noting for weeks, football fans in Europe have displayed radically divergent messages for refugees. Fans of Germany’s Bundesliga received wide international attention for displaying banners bearing the slogan “refugees welcome”, while some fans in Eastern Europe have produced most hostile and xenophobic messages. Europe’s refugee crisis has even affected the activity of football fans in Israel, a country often criticized for its own treatment of people fleeing conflict in neighboring countries. Fans of various clubs there had similarly divergent messages for refugees.
Groups currently supporting migrants in the region include:
- Podrška za izbjeglice i migrante, BiH (including groups in Bihac, Sarajevo, Zenica and Zavidovici at the time of writing)
- Bosanci, pomozimo izbjeglicama u Beogradu (taking goods to refugees in Belgrade)
- Pomozi.ba (appealing for donations)
- Red Cross BiH appeal
- Help the Migrants Macedonia – with this appeal for donations
- Otvorena Porta/Open Gate – La Strada Macedonia
- UNICEF Macedonia
- Macedonian Helsinki Committee (drop off center for food and clothing)
- Refugee Aid Serbia (assisting refugees at transit point in Belgrade)
- Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies (list of goods currently needed in Belgrade)
- Podrška i solidarnost za izbeglice sa Bliskog istoka i severa Afrike
- No Border Serbia
- Group 484
- Belgrade refugee resources map (translators into Arabic needed; being extended into Balkan Refugee Map)