From the New York Times:
17,000 Migrants Stranded in Croatia by Border Crackdown By DAN BILEFSKY SEPT. 18, 2015A half hour ago, this headline began “15,000 Migrants.”
LONDON — As key nations tighten their borders, thousands of migrants and asylum seekers hoping to enter Western Europe are now bottled up in the Balkans, placing precarious new burdens on a region of lingering sectarian divisions that is exceptionally ill prepared to handle the crisis that has been shunted to it.Thanks, Germany!
More than 17,000 migrants have entered Croatia since Wednesday, and were essentially trapped there, having been blocked from Hungary, sent packing from Serbia and unable to move on to Slovenia. The migrants have become a sloshing tide of humanity, left to flow wherever the region’s conflicting and constantly changing border controls channel them.
The shifting of the crisis to the Balkans has added a whole new dynamic to the crisis, threatening to reopen old wounds and distrust. The masses of migrants and refugees are struggling through the clutch of countries that once formed Yugoslavia, until the wars of the 1990s bloodily broke the former Communist state apart.
As hundreds of refugees continued to stream into Croatia on Friday, the government announced that it would close its borders with Serbia. Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said his country was overwhelmed, and Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic had a message for the migrants: “Don’t come here anymore. This is not the road to Europe.”
The remarks were revealing of the tensions the migrants are now sowing among nations with weak economies, uncertain futures in Europe, creaking welfare states and deep wounds from the past. Those factors are hobbling the region’s ability to respond to a crisis that even richer nations in Europe have struggled to address. …
But after gaining independence, countries in the region have struggled to bounce back — the average gross monthly wage in Serbia is 518 euros, about $585, while unemployment hovers at about 18 percent, according to the government statistics office. …
President Tomislav Nikolic of Serbia on Friday railed at members of the bloc for their hypocrisy, selfishness and lack of leadership in the face of the migration crisis. He said it was “absurd” that Serbia respected European standards more than those who are members and who are now “almost out of control — without receiving any criticism, advice, or order from Brussels.”
In a region long plagued by bloody conflicts over land, it is hard enough to police borders where regional rivalries still remain. Slovenia, the first former Yugoslav nation to join the European Union in 2004, and Croatia, which joined in 2013, cannot agree where Croatia ends and Slovenia begins — a dispute that dates to Yugoslavia’s collapse.
Slovenia is part of the Schengen accord that allows freedom of movement among member states; Croatia is not. Macedonia and Greece have battled over who has claims to the name Macedonia.