More than 1,000 asylum seekers trying to reach Western Europe spent the night in the open in Croatia after Slovenian police stopped them at the border, reviving diplomatic tensions between the two neighbours.
The people, mostly asylum seekers from the Middle East, spent the night in the open on the Croatian side of the border after Slovenian police blocked them from entering.
Only the most vulnerable women with small children were allowed to pass overnight, the Slovenian news agency STA said.
Slovenian Interior Minister Vesna Gyorkos Znidar blamed Croatia for the problem, saying it was ignoring an agreement and sending too many refugees to its western border.
Ljubljana Sunday said that it can process around 2,500 migrants per day, but Croatia sent “such high numbers that we have reached an uncontrollable zone,” she warned.
“It is a big problem for us if we can’t foresee how many migrants will reach us,” she said, criticizing Croatia’s actions as “unacceptable.”
At least six buses and a train arrived at the Obrezje and Sredisce ob Dravi border crossings.
Croatia has the capacity to accommodate 24,000 migrants, Gyorkos Znidar said, “but we wonder what is with that capacity, since Croatia has assumed the role of a transporter.”
Croatia is preparing a large shelter for refugees in Slavonski Brod, 90 kilometres west of the border, but the facility formerly owned by the state petrol company is not yet ready.
Slovenia became a new major link on the Balkan migration route – used by people from the Middle East, Asia and Africa trying to reach Europe – after Hungary sealed its border with Croatia on Saturday.
Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Middle Eastern refugees, passed along the Balkan route this year, starting in Turkey, then across the Aegean to Greece, and then Macedonia and Serbia.
Initially, most people took the final westward leg of their trip through Hungary, but have had to seek different routes as that country has grown increasingly hostile to migrants, first blocking its border with Serbia in mid-September, then with Croatia.
Croatia on Saturday started channeling the migrants toward Slovenia, but over the weekend it too slowed the reception of migrants through its border with Serbia, causing a backlog on the other side.
Witnesses at Bapska and Berkasovo, in eastern Serbia, said that people were exposed to rain and the cold while standing in mud.
More migrants are expected. Macedonian media reported that 10,000 people arrived from Greece over the weekend and were set to continue north and west, even as more were arriving on Greek Aegean islands from Turkey.
The Greek coast guard rescued more than 2,500 refugees from the Aegean over the weekend, the state TV ERT1 reported Monday.
It also said that one of the main EU refugee and migrant reception centres, the so-called hotspot on the island of Lesbos, was overwhelmed. It can process 2,500 people daily. More than 5,000 are waiting to be processed.
Only a handful of people sought asylum in the transit countries, with most seeking to reach richer western European nations.