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Eyewitness report from the Balkans

Nemanja Rujevic / rgOctober 28, 2015

DW's Nemanja Rujevic traveled to the Slovenian-Croatian border to report on the situation of the refugees hoping to travel on to Germany. He was surprised to witness a first train to pass through without hindrance.

Train with refugees on board in Kljuc Brdovecki
Image: picture alliance / Davor Puklavec

The volunteers helping refugees in Kljuc Brdovecki, a village on the Croatian-Slovenian border, were surprised to see a train with over a thousand refugees simply pass into Slovenia on Tuesday. They also have pictures on their smartphones of hundreds of refugees marching to the border to wait there for the Slovenian border guards to wave through another batch of them.

Hundreds wait in the cold; others lose patience and panic trying to cross the river Sotla because they fear they may get stuck here in the fields between two countries in the Balkans. Their pictures have been published around the world.

No one here knows why Slovenia would now, for the first time, allow refugees on trains to cross the border. Until now the government in Ljubljana had accused neighboring Croatia of sending on more refugees than the country could handle: 84,000 people in the last two weeks alone, since Hungary sealed off its borders.

Rumors are rife – the volunteers are speculating that the stream of refugees at this border crossing may dry up, that Croatia and Slovenia may be close to reaching a deal, some claim to know that trains with refugees will start coming from Serbia as of November 1st .

Such speculation has led several volunteers to pack their bags and move on. Only the Croatian border guards stay put.

"Territory with restricted access"

Once they have arrived in the Slovenian border town of Dobova the refugees are swiftly passed on to the camp in Brežice. There dozens of busses arrive every hour. "Yalla, yalla", a Slovenian policeman shouts jokingly to his colleagues, who are having a cigarette break. The Arabic expression for "get a move on" is one of the phrases the officers picked up from refugees over the past few weeks.

Karte Balkan Fluchtroute 20.10.2015 Englisch

But no one has been in a joking mood in Brežice: The other night several tents went up in flames – possibly set alight by disgruntled and desperate refugees who were held up on their way to Germany.

Since that happened, journalists have been banned from the camp. The police officers are hostile, pointing to a note that reads "restricted area." From the road, behind police and military vehicles, we can see that behind the fence thousands of people are standing waiting for their travel papers.

"Those poor people," says a woman who is passing by. She says she's a pensioner from Brežice and can understand that refugees and police officers are equally on edge. "I would like to take some children into my home, so they don't need to sleep in the cold in those tents," she says. "But I'm not allowed to do that."

Two more weeks?

The situation here is symbolic for the confusion along what has become known as the "Balkans route." Traveling along we see scenes of chaos alternating with orderly registrations, we see shows of police force, but also of humanity and compassion.

And we hear that this whole situation is supposed to continue for no longer than another two weeks. "Jutarnji list," a Croatian newspaper, quotes an unnamed diplomat who took part in the EU leaders' talks in Brussels on Sunday. He says that Turkey is to stop the flow of refugees within two weeks. And then the Balkans route will be no more.