Croatia Caught in EU Refugee Bedlam

Refugees stream into Croatia Saturday 19 September 2015 Photo: Marko Mrkonjic/Pixsell

Refugees stream into Croatia
Saturday 19 September 2015
Photo: Marko Mrkonjic/Pixsell

According to Croatian HRT TV news, Saturday 19 September evening edition, 21 000 refugees have entered Croatia from Serbia since Wednesday. The refugees, often referred to as the migrants, mostly from poor or war-torn countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, have streamed into Croatia since Wednesday, after Hungary blocked what had been the main route with a metal and razor-wire fence and riot police at its border with Serbia. Serbian authorities had then steered them and assisted them to Croatia’s borders and after Croatia closed its border with Serbia during the week, the refugees found alternative routes: they walked into Croatia through forests, corn and farm fields.

Crossing the border to Croatia across farms and cornfields

Crossing the border to Croatia
across farms and cornfields

Croatia’s prime minister, Zoran Milanovic wants to redirect the refugees flowing into his country to Hungary and Slovenia. He says Croatia can no longer receive refugees. However, the Hungarian government has, during the past couple of days, raised a barbed-wire fence along some 41 kilometer land border between it and Croatia (the rest of the border is a river) to keep the refugees out. Croatia has already transferred to the Hungarian border some 4,000 refugees and a couple of thousand to the Slovenian border. Both Hungary and Slovenia are resisting receiving the refugees and keep pounding vitriolic comments against Croatia.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanoviuc inspects a refugee food and first aid tent

Croatian Prime Minister
Zoran Milanoviuc inspects
a refugee food and first aid tent

After suddenly finding itself in the path of Europe’s biggest tide of migrants for decades, Croatia said on Friday it could no longer offer them refuge and would wave them on, challenging the EU to find a policy to receive them.
We cannot register and accommodate these people any longer,” Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic told a news conference in the capital Zagreb.

“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.”

The arrival of 21,000 since Wednesday morning, many crossing fields and some dodging police, has proved too much for Croatia. It cannot sustain the burden economically or facilities wise.


The refugee crisis has left the EU scrambling for an effective response. Hungary has begun threatening Croatia that it will not recommend it becomes a Schengen area member state since it cannot contain its borders or offer aid to the influx of refugees. This criticism regarding humanitarianism comes from a country that just built 4-meter fences along its borders and chased off the refugees with tear gas and other types of violence as well as still sending bus loads to the Austrian border!

Police assist refugees in Croatia

Police assist refugees in Croatia

With tempers clearly fraying, anything could happen in EU. Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic on Friday 18 September talked on the telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the two agreed that the problem of the current migrant wave had to be solved on the EU’s external borders.

Such a scenario is actually alarming given that the refugees clearly do not want to remain at EU’s external borders – Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Italy…so one wonders what Merkel and Milanovic meant by solving the problem on the EU’s external borders? Would force need to be used?

Refugees in Tovarnik, Croatia waiting in line for food

Refugees in Tovarnik, Croatia
waiting in line for food

Italy and Greece say they cannot cope with migrants coming by sea who, under the EU’s Dublin system, should be given shelter and potentially asylum in the first EU state they enter. Germany, France and other northern states complain Italy and Greece are ignoring the Dublin rules on registering asylum-seekers and helping them travel north through the Schengen area. They now complain Italy and Greece are slow to accept EU help to properly register migrants and send back non-refugees, meaning many can drift across Europe working without documents. Hungary blames Greece for the tens of thousands arriving there this summer and has now fenced off its border with Serbia and its new target to throw blame against is Croatia! Slovenia has also entered the blame and rejection game. It too, like Hungary says it will protect the Schengen borders! Greece and Italy are within the Schengen area also but have not protected the borders and, instead, moved the refugees onward into Europe – let someone else worry about them, would sum it up.

Assisting refugees onto buses in Croatia Saturday 19 September 2015

Assisting refugees onto buses
in Croatia
Saturday 19 September 2015

Germany, France and others criticise eastern states led by Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary for blocking a larger Jean Claude Juncker plan to relocate 120,000 according to quotas. Some say these ex-Communist states lack solidarity after years of receiving EU subsidies and could be penalised by having their grants cut. These eastern European countries accuse Germany of bullying, say relocation will only draw in more immigrants who will, in any case, not want to stay in eastern Europe but will defy the unenforceable Dublin rules and cross Schengen borders to Germany. They say that the EU bailed out Greece on a number of occasions and yet it does not seem to be getting the harsh criticism from Brussels as they are. Obviously EU isn’t going to change its composition of egotistical states any time soon.
Stung by criticism of “Brussels” for not being able to quieten the squabbles between member states affected by the refugee crisis, European Commission officials have noted that their power is limited. Variations in the welcome given to refugees or benefits offered are national prerogatives.

Croatia and refugee crisis in EU

Croatia and
refugee crisis in EU

An EU emergency response system to provide extra frontier guards has been canvassed in Brussels but such a mechanism can only be triggered by invitation – something Athens, caught up in debt crisis and new elections, has yet to issue, reports Reuters.

Comforted by a strong vote on Thursday 17 September for its mandatory quota proposal in the European Parliament, another federalist institution, the European Commission declared this “a clear signal to … ministers … that it is high time to act and finally agree”.
But national leaders insist on first seeking consensus among states. “I feel an allergy to coercion,” their summit’s chairman Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, said last week.
Juncker last week suggested a common EU border guard service and some officials believe a single EU asylum system could make better sense than a patchwork of national policies.

Syrian refugees in Croatia

Syrian refugees (or migrants?) in Croatia

Now, one cannot throw caution to the wind and not ponder on the unwanted eventuality of EU setting up large refugee camps in Croatia as part of the solution, given that Croatia is outside the Schengen area. Could that possibility be in what Milanovic and Merkel reportedly agreed upon? That the problem needs to be solved on EU’s external borders! Could Croatia end up being a huge camp in which the refugees are housed until processed, until their refugee status confirmed or rejected and from where they would either be distributed to other EU countries or deported out of EU? Large numbers are in question. It’s estimated that besides the 500,000 that have already entered European Union countries, another 500,000 are expected the coming year. Having in mind points of entry one can estimate that about 200,000 will enter through Greece and then up to Croatia/Hungary. Such overwhelming numbers would have alarming and destructive effects on the culture and life in Croatia as we know it with large doses of security issues to breeding of radicalism and terrorism as has been observed in other EU countries where multiculturalism has been developing for decades.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic President Of Croatia Photo: Ivo Cagalj/Pixsell

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
President Of Croatia
Photo: Ivo Cagalj/Pixsell

Croatia’s Vecernji List reports that president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic had Saturday 19 September spoken to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and several state leaders about the migration crisis. She emphasised that the problem of the crisis is not only Croatian but also European and global and that it needs to be solved according to those premises. She said that Croatia would insist on solving the problem as being a global one as opposed to a local one. She expects that some 40,000 refugees will enter Croatia in the coming two days and that measures of security and other matters must be put in place in order to secure stability.
Croatia is not a country of first entry, Serbia is qualified as a safe country and therefore there is no need for thousands of migrants to cross over daily to Croatia, we cannot absorb them. We must, first of all, be realistic, secure safety of our own citizens and the stability of our country. We must know who the people crossing our borders are, that it be under supervision, at official crossings, not illegally, then we need to know where they are going because we cannot take care of so many on a long term basis,” she said.
Now all Croatia needs is a consensus between the Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic regarding the safety and security but the likelihood of that happening to an ideal level is quite slim with general elections “around the corner”. I do so agree with President Grabar-Kitarovic that the problem is global and the UN must start playing a bigger role. That particularly with view to establishing more refugee camps outside the EU countries, including Serbia if they reach it from Turkey/Greece. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. It seems that collectively we are not making a very good job of this. No Government it seems wants the problem in their own country. It is easy to be sympathetic and humanitarian whilst someone else has to deal with it. I cannot imagine what Germany was thinking by sending out an open invitation and then closing the borders in panic.
    Lucky for us that we have the English Channel because let’s be honest about this we don’t want the problem any more than Croatia does.
    The World should deal with Syria not the consequnces of the regime and the war.
    Good post.

    • Thanks Andrew – yes the same thoughts re Germany have been running through my mind also, and many others I’m sure – to top the lunacy of it off it’s now tightening its borders as it says it can’t receive that many that quickly. Quite awful stuff.

  2. The Hungarians absolutely nailed it. Croatia collapsed in 1 day and is “pathetic” according to their spokesman.
    You call it vitriol I call it telling the truth.
    Rather than help look after the refugees the public wants to stay in the coffee shops and talk while the politcians want to send them on their way breaking all EU rules in the process.
    You have to love KGK. During the election it was all about Croatia being big and brave. Now it is “we are small”, “we are weak”, “please help us”, “we cant cope”.
    Bring out the violins.
    During the Homeland War we handled a million refugees and we were broke and occupied. I am not saying bring in a million people.
    However, we should be able to cope with more than 20,000. If we dont have the money (because we are broke due to our socialist welfare state) then we should take Juncker up with his offer of assistance and logistics.
    Anyway, Croatia should stop blaming others for its misfortunes. (another sign of weakness) and get on with the job. It would help if those lazy bludgers got out of the coffee shops and joined the real world. Show some humanity and try and help these people as much as they.
    I dont believe Croatia cant help, as KGK would have us believe, but it does not want to. That is disturbing but not unsurprising.

    • The stinking think about Hungary, Ante, is that it criticises Croatia for sending refugees to Hungary and yet it, Hungary, ferrys bus loads to Austria at the same time. As I said: Bledlam! But even in that I think we are seeing a large number of Croatians helping out

  3. Dear Ina, I am a Hungarian artist and has done extensive volunteer work in the field of human rights.

    If your purpose is to have PEACE in Croatia and around, there is a lot of information available for you about your neighboring countries that apparently you don’t know – or chose not to use. The attitude you display in your posts toward my country Hungary, shows a big lack of respect and twisting facts.

    Do you know the Croatian folk song Lipo ti je cuti, from Austira? It’s about war, just think about it for a moment:

    • Thank you, Andrea. I had actually thought that Hungary was doing a great job for itself until it showed its false face and double standards: it criticised Croatia for sending busloads of refugees to Hungary and yet, at the same time, Hungary was doing the same towards the Austrian borders! I do not nor did I twist the facts at all as the facts are: Croatia sent buses to Hungarian border – Hungary sent buses to Austrian border., After all this is in all world’s news and tonight even the ABC has commented on the absurdity and double standard of Hungary’s criticism against Croatia. If you don’t like what your country is doing please don’t accuse others of twisting the facts. Read the article again and you will find it is factual.

      • Hi Ina, I just saw your response now…
        I really can’t grasp what’s your problem with Hungary: as a Schengen border, we have an obligation to protect it – so we did. The border fence since then has proved very efficient in keeping the migrants situation under control in our country.

        Well: why did Croatia let that migrants horde of 2015 in from Serbia, in the first place??? I say horde, because that’s what it was, mostly economical migrants and not refugees. So don’t blame Hungary for Croatia’s mistake.

        The second part: these migrants were invited to Germany, so that’s where they were going, therefore Hungary sent them on their way. We didn’t invite them and it was not our task to keep them. Of course we forwarded them to the West.

        Where EXACTLY is there any hypocrisy?

      • Hungary acted decisively for it’s own people, Andrea, and that is positive. Given that Germany was inviting them and Germany is part of Schengen I guess they should have been sent on their way without too much hassle…I for one respect Hungary’s firm stand

      • I am not sure if I understand what you say, Ina: First you condemned Hungary a couple of times, for hypocrisy – and now you write that what we did was positive and you respect?

      • Well Andrea, my criticism toward Hungary was in the sense that it criticised Croatia for not providing assistance etc at the same time it, itself, rejected to hep i.e. receive them by building a fence.However, outside of that context I do respect Hungary’s moves to protect its own.

  4. It’s bedlam indeed.

  5. Well said Andrea. It was Croatia who betrayed EU values and processes and not for the first time. Remember Lex Perkovic?
    Croatia only shares EU values when there is a dollar for them. When it comes to the heavy lifting and burden sharing they don’t want to know about it.
    This refugee crisis proves it. A little bit of pressure and they have already buckled. All from a country that has sent out into the world a minimum of 2 million refugees. Both economic and political.
    There is not a continent in the world where you will not find Croatians.
    What is worse is KGK and Karramarko have just joined the anti-refugee hysteria and they should no better.
    The message from them should be simple. “We are Croatians, we are Christians, we don’t care about Hungary and Serbia, you are not going anywhere, we will look after you, why? Because we are strong, we have the experience and most importantly, we know what you are going through because we have been through the same s…t”.

    • That would be a case that could succeed, Ante, if the refugees wanted to stay but the problem is that they do not, they want to get to Germany, or Sweden or to other rich countries and they have been allowed to think that they are entitled to that. That is another issues that complicates. As to refugees from before I believe all former communist countries have a great deal of them…Again, it’s not Croatia’s problem, it’s not Hungary’s or Serbia’s or Greece’s – it’s UN’s problem and UN should take charge in setting up camps, pooling resources and bringing some order and peace until all are processed for their status.

  6. This is clearly a crisis of enormous proportions for which no country in Europe was prepared. There is certainly no easy answer. The problem for many, I think, is that many, if not most, of the so-called refugees are young Muslim men (just look at the pictures) and ISIS promised last February to send their followers by the thousands to take over Europe from within. There seems no way to ensure that the refugees are who they say they are, and already false passports have been discovered. So in addition to being a humanitarian issue, this is also a security issue,

    • More pressure and speed is needed to process these people for security’s sake, noelleg44, we can be very compassionate and certainly we are but we cannot ignore the possibility of security threat. I agree with you

    • again, people often flee because their govt has engaged in War or Genocide yes, both and to say just look at the pictures is a generalization that does not most often don’t apply .. you say muslim others say Islamic but you lump them together. There are bad Christians too I call them bad people we had hard working muslims die in 9/11 here in the US black folks are not a monolithic group yet we are treated as so…thugs and why generalizations should be avoided. I wonder what are you and yours calling the women and children fleeing ?

  7. Twitter Luka Misetic

    .@zoltanspox absorb thousands of refugees b/c of Hungarian wall. Croatia and Serbia response is justified.

    • Indeed, Chicha, I did note that strong on twitter and good on Mr Misetic at times when Hungary is trying to cover up its own mess by blaming others.

  8. Michael Silovic says:

    The problem is not Hungary Croatia or any other country. The problem is that these refugees do not want to stay and fight for their own country. If the countries they are escaping to rounded up all of the able bodied young men and told them they will be returned to fight for their country you would see this mass migration stop. Over 200,000 people have arrived on other countries border which is more then any one army has fighting. With that many young men coming I am sure they can defeat and save their country.The real problem is that governments are to afraid to do this and I have no idea why. You have foreign governments sending in their young men to fight for freedom and democracy in those refugees country while their people flee make no sense.The Croatian PM made a mistake in saying we will help these people through with passage knowing that it was not possible. Perhaps some do not know the areas being traveled through has some of Croatia’s poorest people that can not even afford to heat their homes or eat properly let alone help refugees, I am sure in some cases farmers can cook a pig and make sandwiches to help feed the invaders but little else they can contribute.The countries closing their borders have every right to do so. They knew many years ago that being part of the EU that they would eventually have this happen to them. Only a fool cannot see this and we should have learned long ago what the problems would be as all we had to do was look at France and Germany to see what the consequences are. I can only hope that some of these countries give up the EU and do what is right for their people and country.Integration of people with no historical background has never worked in integrating them with others and has only shown to wreak havoc. These people should be sent to wealthy countries like Saudia Arabia. Qutar etc where they have the same beliefs and easier to integrate. People should not be allowed to invade a border and make demands of other countries.

    • A lot will unfold from this crisis, ,m almost certain, Michael – especially in rethinking what the union for EU means as to sending them richer countries like those of Middle East I think that would only be possible if the UN took the reins and distributed refugees to all countries including those

    • You bring up an interesting point when you say that “These people should be sent to wealthy countries like Saudia Arabia. Qutar etc where they have the same beliefs and easier to integrate.” But it seems that these countries don’t want them and one has to wonder why they are not opening their doors to their own people.

  9. Milanovic and the SDP managed to bungle the migrant crisis, offend and strain relations with neighbours and tarnish the already battered image of Croatia in less than 2 days! Gotta give the government credit for how efficiently inept it is. What a disgrace. And where is the opposition in all this? Silent as usual. Cro looks more and more like a banana republic. Croatia needs a serious clean sweep and reset it is mismanaged to the core.

    • Yes, Sunman, it is very unnerving to see the opposition so relatively silent, pone would think that they’d jump at the opportunity to expose the governments ineptness even more, but nah

  10. God bless Viktor Orban and Hungary, for putting up a strong fight against the aiding and abetting of the criminal people smuggling/trafficking trade into Europe, that Croatia’s current “government” is “welcoming” in Croatia… Croatia desperately needs a SERIOUS leader like Viktor Orban right now, to take control of the situation (instead of illegal migrants doing so), and COMPLETELY militarise the border against their illegal entry into Croatia… NOT someone with a bleeding RED “heart”, like the grotesquely incompetent Milanović (and the rest of his shambolic “government”), who, by “welcoming” through Croatia the illegal entry of Europe’s/Serbia’s illegal migrants, alarmingly (but definitely unsurprisingly) highlighted just how WAY OUT OF THEIR DEPTH they are to cope with the SERIOUS consequences of the CRIMINAL enterprise of people smuggling/trafficking into Europe! … ALSO, Croatia is Catholic, and most of Europe is Christian, where Islam/Muslims (especially lawless foreign Arab hordes – who Christian Europeans feel ZERO cultural affinity with – flooding in) are definitely NOT WELCOME (hence the WELCOME rise of anti-Islam, rightist parties across Europe where foreign Muslims settle!)… I’m truly disgusted by what I’m seeing happening in Croatia right now, that Milanović precipitated by his leftist stupidity and low intelligence (he’s definitely not a deep thinker… or much of a thinker!) – seeing Croatia being illegally trampled through by foreign, predominantly Muslim, hordes is SO WRONG, and I pray to God to end it via Croatian military intervention! (anyone who really is a refugee, ceased the need to seek safety when they crossed into the first safe country out of a war zone)…

    • Anita, the President suggested that the army and police need to be placed at the border but the idiotic Prime Minister says nothing like that is needed. I wonder if the president was of his left political background if he would respond in similar way

  11. Btw, I’m pretty sure what Merkel/Milanović meant by “EU’s external borders” is Greece and Italy, where the overwhelming majority of illegal boat arrivals first arrive into Europe… LIKE HELL Croats would ever allow their ancestral homeland to be turned into a “refugee camp” dumping ground of predominantly Muslim Arabs! (even the current dim-witted “government” knows that is suicide!)…

    • That would be good news and the best external border for EU to stop them progressing into the EU further until they are processed and only genuine refugees distributed to wherever including back to a Middle East country

  12. If Croatia was a true independent state with a good government that had a proper population policy then fine, send in the troops to maintain the border, come hell or high water.
    But you cant have you cake and eat it. You cant join the EU, take German and Austrian taxpayer money, and then when there is a problem head for the hills which is what this idiotic government is trying to do.
    You cant just shunt people off to Germany, Hungary or Slovenia. All they have to do is put up the barricades and you are back to square one.
    Merkel told Milanovic to hold onto the refugees and process them. He said no and packs them on trains. Its the Lex Perkovic of refugee policy.
    I have read, thanks to Croatia, trains are departing with children separated from their parents. Great humanitarian work. The government is “not communicating” with UNHCR.
    We had 25 years to get strong so we can deal with issues such as this tidal wave of people. We did nothing but sip coffee and pontificate.
    In any event, it seems decisions will be made for us by the powers to be in the EU. Migrant quotas, etc..Ah well, Croatia has no one to blame but itself.

    • I agree, Ante, Croatia needs to contribute to EU but the same is true the other way around on all matters. Croatia has to my knowledge put its hand up to accept the quota of refugees allocated to it by EU but EU has done absolutely nothing to act fast enough in aiding the floods of refugees or countries where they pass and it has not yelled loud enough to refugees that they cannot reach Germany unless they are registered and processed in the first country they enter…so it allowed this bedlam to inflame a bit more each day…but I do agree Milanovic is “your sharpest tool in the shed”

  13. Migrant, oops sorry ‘refugee’ stats are as follows: 1 in 5 are NOT Syrians, but people from Afghanistan, Albania, Iraq, Eritrea, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Vietnam, Somalia, Sri Lanka.
    73 % are men of military fighting age. Pathetic, this is another reason any Premier Milanovic is simpatico with them, he too was a deserter during the homeland war.
    For real heroes see these Kurdish WOMEN fighting ISL and NOT fleeing like these wimpy men. If you love your country, fight for it. Easy to be a patriot in a cafe in Germany.
    Furthermore, Croatia, a country that has not recovered from the 1990s war of aggression still has landmines, high unemployment, and is stretched to the limit re. resources.
    Ranko Ostojic is being praised as being kind to the migrants. These is the same creep who sent police to St. Mark’s Church to attack Croatian war veterans.

  14. This situation is so overwhelming, I can’t imagine a reasonable solution for this crisis.
    How sad!

  15. Great Spiegel article on how Merkel’s bungling completely devastated Germany’s neighbours, especially tiny Croatia.

  16. The United States is the world’s top resettlement country, while Australia, Canada and the Nordic countries also provide a sizeable number of places annually … Time for the rest to help out!

  17. ..this shows, once again, that the silly communists and chetniks, such as Zoran Milanovic cannot manage this kind of humanitarian disaster, much less the economy!..get rid of these useless dorks!

  18. really tough situations!!!

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