Croatia can cope with several thousand migrants, but not with tens of thousands, Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic said on Wednesday evening.
“If their numbers reach several thousand, we can cope with it, but we cannot cope with tens of thousands because we simply don’t have the capacity,” Pusic said in an interview with the HTV public television network.
“We are in talks with some countries, both European and those outside Europe, to help us if these numbers increase,” she added, recalling that in that case Croatia would be entitled to financial support from the European Union.
Pusic said that 892 migrants had entered Croatia on Wednesday, of whom 576 had been processed, including 98 children aged up to 14, 108 women and 360 men. “Some of them are economic migrants, some are fleeing war and are seeking asylum,” she said, adding that they would all be processed, accommodated, fed and provided with medical assistance.
She noted that the refugees would be allowed to move freely pending a decision on their status. “During that time they will be able to move freely, they are not in prison.”
“On their way from Greece towards the west, Croatia is actually the first country to take the necessary administrative measures, including registration, selection and provision of the necessary assistance,” the minister said, adding that migrants saw Croatia as a transit country and that most of them wanted to go to Germany. “You can’t keep them by force. These people have not come to Croatia to stay, they see Croatia as a transit country.”
Asked to comment on the fears of the government in Ljubljana that migrants might be channelled from Croatia to Slovenia, Pusic said that people could not illegally enter Slovenia, but could cross the border legally and register there. She added that the migrants who meet the criteria can apply for asylum in Croatia as well, but can also request asylum elsewhere.
“We won’t be forcing anyone across the border illegally. Absolutely not,” Pusic stressed.
In her estimate, the number of migrants that will come to Croatia will certainly exceed the quota determined by the European Union.