Commenting on the rising number of refugees entering Croatia, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said on Thursday that this was a humanitarian crisis in which institutions were doing all that was necessary “in the best interest, of Croatia first and foremost, of humanity and respect for European rules,” but warned that Croatian capacities were limited.
We have the duty to register the people who enter Croatia as long as we can, depending on new arrivals, he said at a government session, adding that these were people who did not wish to stay in Croatia. “We are a transit country and will certainly treat them better than some other states.”
But, regardless of our organisation, Croatia’s possibilities are limited, just as Austria’s are, which is a bigger and a very rich country, Milanovic said.
Before the government session, he talked with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann. “We shared the experience, agreed some things. Austria is increasingly becoming a destination country, Croatia isn’t,” Milanovic said.
He reiterated that Croatia would be constructive and cooperate, “but there are limits to our capacities… After that, if the number increases, we don’t know if we will be able to register all people… We must first and foremost see to Croatian interests, but I think we have shown already at the beginning that we can behave as people.”
At the session, the government decided to set up a task force for the coordination of activities related to the arrival of migrants. The task force is headed by Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic.
During the previous night, nearly 6,000 refugees have entered Croatia.
Croatia is handling the arrival of migrants well and is not considering closing the border for now, but if their number exceeds Croatia’s capacities, it will seek international assistance, Deputy Foreign Minister Josko Klisovic told reporters.
Economy Minister Ivan Vrdoljak said the situation with buffer stocks was excellent. “We have everything ready… The quantities are certainly enough for the next few weeks. If we see they are being depleted, we will quickly procure more.”
Croatian Red Cross (HCK) spokeswoman Katarina Zoric said the HCK had given refugees all of its stocks of food and toiletries and that it expected new ones from the buffer stocks.
Speaking to the press before the government session, Deputy PM Branko Grcic said the arrival of refugees had been expected. “I think it could be anticipated and that our people have prepared for all this.”
Asked if container homes and tents used by the victims of last year’s floods could be used to accommodate refugees and migrants, Construction Minister Anka Mrak Taritas said one should see how things unfolded and how many people came.
Health Minister Sinisa Varga said that, according to unofficial estimates, more than 20,000 migrants could be expected in Croatia in the next two weeks. “During that time, the health care system in Croatia must function and the population’s health protection must be ensured.”
He said a ministry task force was in contact with medical staff regarding care for refugees. “The situation is satisfactory.”
By 10.50am today, 6,200 migrants entered Croatia, the Interior Ministry said on its website. About 800 are accommodated at the Jezevo registration centre near Zagreb, about 400 at the Cepin registration centre near Osijek, about 500 at the Porin registration centre in Zagreb, about 50 at the registration centre in Kutina and 51 in Sisak.