Croatia lifts border blockade with Serbia| MENAFN.COM

Wednesday, 10 August 2022 09:09 GMT

Croatia lifts border blockade with Serbia

(MENAFN- The Peninsula)Syrian refugees try to hold onto an overcrowded dinghy after arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos yesterday.

Zagreb: Croatia sought to ease tensions with its former foe Serbia yesterday after the EU’s powerful executive intervened in a bitter row sparked by Europe’s biggest postwar influx of refugee.

In their worst spat since the 1990s Yugoslavian conflict the two countries have been embroiled in tit-for-tat restrictions caused by the human exodus washing through the Balkans bound for northern Europe. Croatia has seen nearly 60000 new arrivals since last week when Hungary sealed its southern border with Serbia.

Overwhelmed by the sheer numbers Croatia has closed all but one of its border crossings with Serbia and blamed Belgrade for diverting an unrelenting flow of migrants towards its frontier.

This week Belgrade closed the main Bajakovo-Batrovci crossing — the last one still open — to all trucks with Croatian plates while Croatia closed the crossing to trucks and cars with Serbian plates.

Belgrade compared the border restrictions taken by Zagreb to those “taken in the past at the time of the (Nazi) fascist regime in Croatia” during World War II.

In Brussels the European Commission said it was “urgently seeking clarifications” from Croatia while EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini phoned both Serbia and Croatia’s leaders.

The intervention appeared to work and with business groups warning about damage to trade Croatia’s interior minister announced that the restrictions were lifted at 1500 GMT.

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic however warned he might reintroduce similar restrictions in future. “I cannot and will not do otherwise” he told reporters. As thousands of migrants and refugees continued to stream through Croatia non-EU Macedonia said trucks with Macedonian number plates were also being affected by the restrictions.

As the weather turned wet and cold migrants — some still clad for summer — kept coming yesterday with six buses carrying some 600 arriving at the Beremend crossing point between Croatia and Hungary mid-afternoon witnesses said.

“Last night was tough. It was raining so much. I was cold. I am happy to be making progress I hope I can make it to a good place to start a new life far from war the Taliban” Bashir Ahmad 20 from Afghanistan said. “Everything is bad on this journey nothing is good. Everyone is exhausted. Yesterday was a very bad day particularly because of the weather” said a 30-year-old Syrian hoping to join his family in Amsterdam.

Zagreb now buses a large majority of the migrants straight to the border with Hungary and Prime Minister Viktor Orban said yesterday that Budapest eventually planned to seal its border with Croatia too.

“The influx of migrants is not going to abate... We want to stop people crossing” Orban told reporters in Vienna after a meeting aimed at smoothing over differences with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann.

Hungary’s border closure — and the razor-wire barriers it has set up along its frontiers with Serbia and parts of Croatia not marked by the Drava river — have been widely criticised. On Thursday Budapest announced it had also started to roll out a mobile barrier along its border with Slovenia — the first such measure within the EU’s treasured passport-free Schengen zone.

The influx of refugees has raised tensions not only between Balkan countries but has exposed deep fault lines between western and former communist eastern countries in the 28-nation European Union.

There have been growing fears that the Schengen zone could buckle as states reintroduce border checks to stem a flow of migrants inside the bloc many of whom are heading for Germany.

Leaders at an EU emergency summit in Brussels on Wednesday papered over the differences agreeing to boost aid for Syria’s neighbours — home to millions of people fleeing the Syrian civil war and Islamic State extremists.

They also aim to strengthen the bloc’s outer frontiers and create controversial “hotspot” reception centres in frontline states like Greece and Italy to sort more quickly real refugees from economic migrants. AFP

For thousands fleeing war transitthrough Greece continues unabated

PIRAEUS Greece: They cheered waved and flashed the victory sign when their boat packed with thousands of mainly Afghan Syrian and Iraqi refugees docked at Greece’s main port of Piraeus yesterday.

As the stream of arrivals from Turkey across to Greece’s islands continued unabated nearly 4000 people were ferried from the eastern islands of Lesbos and Chios to the mainland on Friday morning on two government-chartered ships.

They are the latest wave of a record number of at least 430000 refugees and migrants to have taken rickety boats across the Mediterranean to Europe this year 309000 via Greece according to International Organization for Migration figures.

“(It will continue) as long as the war continues” Greece’s new migration minister Yannis Mouzalas said after being sworn in on Friday. “Only the bad weather will stop them.”

Nearly 4000 people arrived on Wednesday and Thursday on Lesbos alone making the most of the relatively calm weather before the Mediterranean is hit increasingly by storms as autumn progresses towards winter making the crossing too dangerous for most refugees to attempt.

In Piraeus parents lifted their young children on their shoulders and hurried across the quayside to the half-dozen buses taking them to the centre of Athens their belongings in black plastic bags or small backpacks.

From there almost all hope to leave Greece its economy already stretched close to breaking point in search of a better life in northern European after fleeing war persecution and misery at home.

“We ran from the killing and the war in Syria” said Omar a Palestinian from Damascus who took the overnight boat alongside about 2500 more people from Chios and Lesbos. He was unsure if he would head to Germany or Sweden. He travelled for a week to Greece and hopes to bring his family along as well. His only request from Europe: “To treat us like human.”

For others the journey to Greece the main gateway into the European Union took much longer. Sixty-four-year-old retiree Salim al-Joubouri fled Iraq’s biggest city of Mosul with his wife and daughter last summer shortly after Islamic State insurgents overran the city hoping to be reunited with family in Austria.

They spent 11 months in Turkey before collecting about 2000 dollars each for the trip from the coastal city of Izmir to Greece only to find themselves stranded at a camp in Chios in the open with no sanitation. “It was raining we slept under the rain. No toilet no bathroom” he said. “It was very very bad a bad situation” he said as his wife pulled him towards one of the buses.


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