Hungary, Croatia trade jabs over migrant train | News | DW | 18.09.2015
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Hungary, Croatia trade jabs over migrant train

Croatia has sent a train carrying migrants to Hungary without consulting Budapest, Hungarian officials have claimed. EU President Juncker offered logistical assistance in a phone call with the Croatian prime minister.

Hungary has seized a train transporting refugees from Croatia to the border town of Magyarboly, Hungarian authorities said late Friday, lashing out at the neighboring country for allegedly failing to coordinate the move.

"Without any consultation, 1,000 migrants have been brought by train to Magyarboly," said Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs.

The train driver was arrested after crossing the border and around 40 Croatian police accompanying the migrants were disarmed, according to head of Hungary's national disaster unit, Gyorgy Bakondi.

However, the Croatian officials denied that such incident took place.

"There was no disarming or arrests. It is not true," Croatian police spokeswoman Jelena Bikic told Reuters news agency. "There was an agreement about the escort between the police officers from the two sides in advance."

Croatian officials also claimed that Zagreb and Budapest agreed to create a corridor for migrants to continue their travels north and west, with Hungarian Foreign Ministry calling that a "pure lie."

Croatian authorities also sent dozens of buses carrying migrants to the border with Hungary. Passengers from at least two of them were transferred to Hungarian transports and driven away, according to the AFP.

Hungary fencing off

Over 4,000 migrants have arrived across the Croatian border on Friday and more are expected, according to Hungary's Bakondi.

On the same day, the conservative Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced that his country would built a fence on the border with Croatia. Hungary has already blocked off its border to Serbia.

"Rather than respecting the laws in place in the EU, they [Croatia], are encouraging the masses to break the law, because illegally crossing a border is breaking the law," Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said.

"At the moment, the Croatian government is transporting migrants - in contravention of the laws in force in the European Union - towards the Hungarian border instead of giving them a place to stay and looking after their needs," charged Szijjarto.

Heads and hearts

After taking in thousands of refugees in less than three days, Croatian officials announced that the country cannot cope with the number of people coming across the Balkans from crisis areas in Africa and the Middle East.

"We cannot register and accommodate these people any longer," Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said.

"They will get food, water and medical help, and then they can move on. The European Union must know that Croatia will not become a migrant 'hotspot.' We have hearts, but we also have heads."

Later on Friday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker offered Croatia "technical and logistical assistance" for coping with the flood of migrants, during a phone call with Prime Minister Milovanovic.

Pressure on EU

On Thursday, Croatia shut seven of eight road border crossings with Serbia in a bid to control the influx. Serbian officials protested the move, fearing that the closure would leave thousands of migrants stranded inside its own territory.

Slovenia, which is sandwiched between Croatia and Austria, also stopped passenger trains coming from Croatia. The Slovenian police used pepper spray after clashes with some 500 migrants broke out on the Croatian border on Friday.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn attempted to reassure eastern European nations that they were not forgotten in Brussels.

"You are not a parking lot for refugees, you are also victims of the situation and we won't leave you," Hahn told the Macedonian parliament.

Data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) showed that nearly 474,000 people have attempted dangerous across the Mediterranean to reach Europe this year.

EU members are due to discuss the refugee crisis at an emergency meeting next week.

dj/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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