Refugee arrivals hit new high in Croatia as Hungary stops fence work

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Croatia reported a new one-day record for refugee arrivals on Saturday as Hungary said it would temporarily halt construction on a planned border fence with Slovenia, citing the rules of Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone.

Nearly 10,000 new refugees arrived in Croatia on Friday, the Interior Ministry announced.

Since migrants first began using Croatia as a transit point into Europe 10 days ago, nearly 65,000 people have crossed the country’s borders.

Nearly all of the new arrivals were moved by bus and train to the border with Hungary, where media reports said they were transferred to Austria with the help of Hungarian officials.

In Hungary, authorities said they would temporarily pause their work on a barrier along the country’s western border with Slovenia.

Aiming to keep refugees out, Hungary’s conservative government has built or planned to build a fence along the border with Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Romania.

But Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday that a fence with Slovenia would be problematic because of its membership in the Schengen zone of passport-free travel.

Budapest maintains that its fence along the Croatian border was legitimate as the EU member state does not belong to Schengen. Hungary is now negotiating with both Croatia and Slovenia over the border security.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto renewed criticism of Croatia, stating that Zagreb had “cause for modesty” in view of the country’s handling of its refugees. Szijjarto was responding to Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic’s criticism of Hungary’s border fence.

Serbia and Croatia’s relations also remain troubled, despite the latter’s lifting of a border blockade with Belgrade. Serbian newspapers have labelled the move – made under EU pressure – as a defeat for Croatia.

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