Diplomatic Quarrels Surge As Refugee Influx Into Croatia Grows Unbearably

Dumped in "nowhere in the dark of night" by Serbia near Croatian border at Strosinci Marko Drobnjakovic / Keystone

Dumped in “nowhere in
the dark of night” by Serbia
near Croatian border at Strosinci
Marko Drobnjakovic / Keystone

According to Wall Street Journal (which is also the figure given by Croatian HRT TV news) 67,000 refugees and illegal migrants have come into Croatia over the past 10 days. Confusion, rather ugly and unnecessary recriminations and diplomatic spats between Serbia, Croatia and Hungary gripped the nations throughout the past week and Croatian authorities struggled to keep up with the massive influx, constant flow of refugees crossing from Serbia.

Croatia at first welcomed the migrants, thinking they would transit through to Slovenia, Austria and then Germany. But Slovenia refused to let the people pass, leaving Croatia responsible for tens of thousands of people. The government in Zagreb then accused Serbia of shunting the refugees into its territory and closed the border pass near Tovarnik which led to a standstill for the cargo trucks crossing into and out of Serbia. Hungary had shut itself from Serbia by building a high fence.

Most refugees reaching Croatia from Serbia were and are given temporary shelter in a recently built refugee reception centre in the village of Opatovac near the Serbian border, not far from Tovarnik. Then they are usually taken on buses and trains to three border crossings with Hungary.

Strosinci Croatia Saturday 26 September 2015

Strosinci Croatia
Saturday 26 September 2015

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said earlier this week his government would continue erecting fences on its borders with fellow European Union member states Romania and Croatia that are outside Europe’s document-free Schengen travel zone; they have already completed the fence between Hungary and Serbia, which in fact triggered the massive influx into Croatia.

Leaflet given to refugees while in Serbia. At a border crossing near Bapska, Croatia, volunteers distributed fliers telling refugees they were in Serbia and would get passage to Austria. Photo: Max J. Rosenthal

Leaflet given to refugees
while in Serbia.
At a border crossing near Bapska, Croatia,
volunteers distributed fliers
telling refugees they were in Serbia
and would get passage to Austria.
Photo: Max J. Rosenthal

Relations between Croatia and Serbia heated up to almost the 1990 level when Croatia announced it would secede from communist Yugoslavia and Serbia started “sharpening its knives to attack Croatia” in the event that Croatian people actually seceded from Yugoslavia. However, after an emergency meeting Friday (25 September 2015) night, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told Croatian state TV that Serbia will “absolutely” lift its embargo on Croatian goods. Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said he lifted the blockade, reopened the border crossings at Bajakovo and Tovarnik, but that he may reinstate the blockade again if Serbia keeps on busing migrants to the Croatian border instead of sending at least some of them up north to the border with Hungary. Croatian government believes that Serbia has reached a secret deal with Hungary over refugees and is deliberately sending them towards Croatia after Hungary sealed its borders in mid-September. And I personally wouldn’t put such a dirty trick past Serbia, either!

A child jumps over a ditch as people wait in order to clear a police line after entering Croatia from Serbia in Strosinci, Croatia, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. Conciliation replaced confrontation among European nations which have clashed over their response to a wave of migration, but confusion faced many asylum-seekers streaming into Croatia on Saturday in hopes of chasing a new future in Western Europe. Photo: MARKO DROBNJAKOVIC — AP Photo

A child jumps over a ditch
as people wait in order to
clear a police line after entering Croatia
from Serbia in Strosinci, Croatia,
Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015.
Conciliation replaced confrontation among
European nations which have clashed
over their response to a wave of migration,
but confusion faced many asylum-seekers
streaming into Croatia on Saturday
in hopes of chasing a new future
in Western Europe.

Cooperation replaced confrontation Saturday among European nations as thousands of asylum-seekers streamed into Croatia in hopes of creating a new future in Western Europe. At least 10,000 arrived on Friday alone, and Croatian authorities struggled to keep up with the influx of those fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Sent here from Belgrade, Serbia migrants found themselves not knowing where they were in the wilderness near Strosinci, Croatia Photo: REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Sent here from Belgrade, Serbia
migrants found themselves
not knowing where they were
in the wilderness near Strosinci, Croatia
Photo: REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

At one tiny border crossing point, Croatian police said thousands were abandoned at a remote crossing after Serb authorities bused them to a point near the village of Strosinci and left.
Unclear where they were, the migrants tried to cross into Croatia, but got lost in the nearby cornfields. Croatian police found them, and called in buses to take the travelers to the nearby transit camp at Opatovac, but individual families were separated in the chaos.

This new crossing at Erdut through the village of Strosinci into Croatia from Serbia has emerged during the night between Friday 25 September and Saturday 26th. Serbia’s buses filled with refugees were driven to the nearby stretch of forests, fields throughout the night and refugees dumped there in the dark of the night to find their way across the fields and forests into Croatia. The refugees slept in the cold fields and were evacuated by Croatian authorities as it was feared that the heavy rainfall that occurred in the night might have dislodged the landmines in the forest still there from the war, left by Serbs, posing a real threat to refugees’ lives.

Escorted by Croatian police from forests and fields into Strosinci, Croatis Saturday 26 September 2015

Escorted by Croatian police
from forests and fields
into Strosinci, Croatis
Saturday 26 September 2015

In unusually blunt but perhaps necessarily decisive language, Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had during the week criticised on Croatian Nova TV Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and just fell short of accusing Merkel of causing “chaos” in Europe.
Mrs Merkel called them, and now she’s pulled the handbrake by saying Germany cannot absorb all these economic migrants,” Grabar-Kitarovic told Croatian television.  “She makes out as if she wasn’t aware that pulling the handbrake when so many cars were on the road would cause chaos. This needs to be resolved now.”
As one would expect there were those who supported this commentary and opinion regarding Merkel’s actions in this refugee crisis expressed by Croatia’s president Grabar-Kitarovic and, of course, there were those who criticised Grabar-Kitarovic, saying she had insulted the German Chancellor. Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic was the first in Croatia to characterise President Grabar-Kitarovic’s assessment of Merkel’s actions as insulting to Merkel. But one wouldn’t expect much better from a Prime Minister who is struggling to keep afloat amid the shockingly damaging performance to the Croatian economy by his government in this per-elections period.

Angela Merkel and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic

Angela Merkel and
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic

The fact is that while Greece, Serbia, Hungary, Macedonia were splitting at the seams, paralysed in attempts to cope with the unbearably large numbers of refugees trying to reach the richer EU countries such as Germany, Sweden, Netherlands…Angela Markel kept encouraging the refugees on to take the perilous journey by saying they are all welcome in Germany! Indeed Merkel’s “calls” to the refugee had caused Hungary’s Victor Orban to express harsh words against Merkel and Germany this last week as well as before. Extraordinary scenes played out at an emergency European Union (EU) summit in Belgium on 23 September after the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, criticised Germany’s “invitation” to migrants and warned the crisis had only just began.

Viktor Orban

Viktor Orban

The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban then accused Germany of “moral imperialism”. French president Francois Hollande responded by telling Orban he should “respect European values” or leave while Slovakia reaffirmed its commitment to defy forced migration quotas.



The European Council president Donald Tusk in a thinly veiled attack on the German chancellor Angela Merkel said: “It is likely that more refugees will flow towards Europe. Especially as almost all of them feel invited to Europe,” referring to Merkel’s promise to offer asylum to any Syrian this August, no matter how many safe countries they pass through, and regardless of whether or not they come from a dangerous region.

Donald Tusk

Donald Tusk

The most urgent question we should ask ourselves tonight is how to regain control of our external borders… Otherwise it doesn’t make any sense to even speak about common migration policy. What is at stake is also the future of Schengen, the sense of order in Europe and the common European spirit.”
After “inviting” tens of millions of people into Europe last month, Germany was quickly overwhelmed, closed its boarder and on 22 September forced through a policy to resettle the migrants in other EU member states against their will. Viktor Orban directed his anger at Angela Merkel. “The most important thing is that there should be no moral imperialism … Hungary should have the right to control the impact of a mass migration. The Hungarian people don’t want this,” he said.
Orban followed with an unexpected threat, that unless other EU nations started controlling their borders, Hungary would set up a corridor “through which the refugees or migrants can go to Austria or Germany.”
France’s François Hollande told Mr Orban that if he did not like it, his country should leave the EU: “States that don’t respect European values should ask if they belong within the EU,” he said.
The Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico repeated his promise to break EU law and refuse to bow to the German “diktat,” by turning away the 800 migrants who will be sent to his nation. “Slovakia is not going to respect mandatory quotas,” he said.

Refugees entering Strosinci, Croatia, Satrurday 26 September 2015

Refugees entering Strosinci,
Croatia, Saturday 26 September 2015

While In New York, at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit since Friday 25 September the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic told Croatian TV news that the Croatian decisions regarding any border closures would be made in collaboration with the EU, that Croatia must show solidarity and not enter into quarrels with the neighbours (as Prime Minister Milanovic has with Serbia and Hungary) and instead of closing border crossings she sought stricter controls at the border.
We need to keep the official border crossings open and close the corn fields, forests, farm fields where the refugees and migrants cross illegally,” Grabar-Kitarovic said to HRT TV news Saturday 26 September from New York. “So, everything we do needs to be done with cooperation and agreement with the EU and in compliance with that which has already been agreed upon – to protect the external borders, primarily between Turkey and Greece, and I would also continue insisting that Croatia receives assistance in controlling the border between Serbia and Croatia.”


Miro Cerar

Miro Cerar

Slovenia’s Prime Minister Miro Cerar said at the UN summit that his country “together with other European countries has intensified the activities in resolving the current migration crisis in Europe. The main principles of our action are based on humanity and solidarity but also security. We should pool our efforts in combating illegal migration and suppressing the trafficking of migrants and human beings.”
Let’s trust the coming weeks will bring more visible cooperation on the global level, steered by the UN, to help solve this EU refugee and illegal migrant crisis or at least bring some order in the movement of refugees, otherwise increased unrest on the streets of affected EU countries, calling for greater input by the people in decisions made, will be the likely scenario. Perhaps that is exactly what is needed as more and more we are faced with the politicians making decisions that seriously affect people’s lives without reference to the people. This crisis has the potential of triggering changes to the EU map, to UN’s global role and to reinvigorate the long-forgotten grass root role in the “Western” democratic processes and decisions generally. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Thank You, Ina, for this serious post.
    Europe is in confusion and disagreement
    and the situation will get worse.

    take the best care


    • Too right, John – can’t see an end that doesn’t cause difficulties, either. Have a great week

      • Nada Lubay says:

        I agree with all you said. Our media has been controlled and only lately such articles finally emerged – thanks to our president Kolinda Grabar Kitarović..Milanović and Ostojić must be stopped for they obviously can’t reason logically….Public opinion is not allowed and that can cause outbursts on a larger scale..well may be Croatia needs that to show what people think about incompetent government . Milanović has also (as Angela Merkel ) invited refugees refugees to come to Croatia stating that “Croata is ready to accept them “..When they arrived chaos begun ….It is crucial to stop Milanovć and similar incapable and dangerous politicians to win upcoming elections…We need more articles like yours

      • Yes, I agree Nada and thank you

  2. Anna Maritza says:

    From Facebook: Like they said in England, if the era of democracy is over in Europe, time to get out of the EU

  3. Confusion reigned throughout the week as Croatian authorities struggled to keep up with the constant flow of refugees crossing from Serbia. On Monday, the police guided busload after busload of people onto trains, where Syrians, Afghans, and others leaned out of nearly every window, asking people nearby not for food or water—though there was one urgent request to a photographer for cigarettes—but for information on where the train was going… as long as it gets them closer to Germany they seem OK

    • At times Varosh, it does all remind one of “shifting” the load but I guess that would not have been so had Germany refrained from inviting all and sundry when in fact it cannot cope with all and sundry

  4. I strongly believe the European Union should take serious steps to fix the root cause, i.e., the situation in Syria. If somehow peace can be brought back, all these people can go back to their motherland and live a dignified life.

    • I believe that also as life away from homeland will be hard and sad for many refugees especially those who are not young and don’t have real prospects of making a career elsewhere due to age and language etc

  5. I appreciate your important posts on this issue, Ina. It’s hard to find accurate up-to-date mainstream news on the European refugee crisis. It’s heart-breaking to see thousands and thousands of families without homes and what that means for others who are also just trying to survive difficult times.

    • Thanks Carol, yes I notice mainstream media is all over the place and especially trying to drum up sensationalism where there should be none as this crisis is hitting all sides hard – the refugees and host countries and we all are faced with the need to adjust and not all want that

  6. Reblogged this on Foundations of The Twenty-First Century and commented:
    Well done…

  7. Definitely a history lesson , could you compare and contrast the 1990 levels and the 1991 Croatian Independence to the current situation?

    • On a “diplomatic” level or relations between two states – Croatia and Serbia – Nativegrl77, 1990 and 1991 there was only aggressive winds and attacks from Serbia and as you know bloody war of aggression had led to ethnic cleansing of Croats and other non-Serbs from areas in Croatia Serbs forcefully occupied through genocide and ethnic cleansing creating hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons who all fled to the unoccupied areas of Croatia; Croatia struggled but diaspora helped enormously with donations of funds and then international orgs stepped in with help also. 94% of Croats wanted independence and democracy and Serbia did not want Croatia to secede from Yugoslavia. Last week Serbia stepped up its aggressive and negative campaign against Croatia including attempting to colour border closures with WWII Nazi practices while at the same time Serbia carted off refugees away from its territory. The contrast between 1990/1991 and today re the refugees is that many of the so-called refugees are identified as people leaving their country for a better life elsewhere and many appear strong and young and could have stayed perhaps and fought for what they want their country to be. Croats, old and young and those living abroad gave their everything for Croatian freedom and independence then only a relatively small number were eventually placed abroad and remained…so Croatia had a good foundation to sustain freedom while it seems Syria etc are not having that chance with so many running…

  8. Lets cut to the chase. What is your bottom line? I think after reading all your comments and those of some of readers it is to send in the army and put up barb-wire fences. While doing that find scapegoats for our own catastrophic failures as a nation (ie Angela Merkel).
    While the Germans are giving sanctuary and integrating them into their society (and they will become stronger despite what the rascists say),
    Croatians just want to pack them off as fast they can so they can go back to the national sport of drinking coffee and talking crap. Just like our Greek friends.
    You want evidence. The last 25 years provides all the evidence all you need. Indeed, the refugee crisis provides more evidence. Croatia has a whole army of underworked and overpaid public servants. Yet, none of them saw this coming. Why dont they go help? They are doing nothing at the moment besides wrecking their country.,
    I am sure there is plenty of room in Croatia. Thanks to the migration of our people particulary young people who see no future in the country.
    Finally, Croatians have had plenty of time to get rid of Zoran Milanovic. In Australia, thanks to his poor performance and rating, Tony Abott was desposed as leader. The fifth PM in 5 years.
    In Australia, we dont have to wait years to get rid of people who over promise and under achieve.

    • Well Ante, I’ll first address your comment regarding Australia’s Prime Minister Abbot – it’s early days still to see whether current PM Turnbull and team made the right move in deposing Abbot as PM – Abbot made huge headway as PM and I’m yet to be convinced Turnbull will but be that as it may it is frightening to see that in Croatia (I guess in other former Yugoslavia states also) there is still that nasty practice of staying as PM or President for the mandate regardless of what kind of a job you do. Not what democracy is about. Regarding Croatia and refugees and Angela Merkel one cannot circumvent the fact that Angela Merkel in August and before continuously invited refugees to come to Germany and this motivated many to make the trip towards Germany only to now be faced with the prospect of being distributed elsewhere. She should have formulated a conditional invitation by saying after there is the limit of how many Germany can take Germany will take not a single one more…Every country has a right to define its immigration etc policy but it seems to me this is being criticised and I for one don’t agree with the criticism. With all immigration policies there needs to be public education etc so that migrants have a better chance of settling in on all fronts – that’s just a fact and some countries have more experience at that than others. I wonder what would happen if the refugees were told in Greece, Serbia, Hungary or Croatia: NO you cannot go to Germany etc? You must wait your turn here where you are…My bottom line is that Croatia should take its share of refugees and settle them and that has been on the books for a while but it seems EU hasn’t officially commenced with “distribution”

  9. It is utterly extraordinary the attitude of those miserable Central European nations like Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Croatia.
    Hungary, for example, had 200,000 people seek sanctuary during the 56 uprising against the Soviet Union. “The Class of 56” is a group of well known Hungarians who achieved amazing success in the US after escaping.
    Croatia, this is another world. We have been sending people out into the world for almost 500 years (and counting). Your comment about young Syrians staying back so they can fight for their own country is unbelievable.
    Fight for what? Assad? ISIS? Jeffersonian Democracy? The situation in that country is so complex it makes the Balkans look easy to solve. There is nothing to fight for. Just run.
    Look, there is plenty of room in Europe. All those countries, like Croatia and Hungary, have to take their fair share in. If they dont want to play by EU rules then they can just unilaterally leave the union and do whatever they want. For example put up barb wire fences, send in the army, kill people on the border, let them starve. Give them the bird in their own inimitable way.
    When you are independent. Do whatever you want but join the EU and then start talking and acting tough while dipping your hand in their pocket.

  10. Thanks Ina. None of this is in the mainstream press in North America. The coverage is a joke. What a disaster for Croatia. With winter coming and more migrants coming this will only get worse. As awful this may sound, why can’t Croatia follow Orban’s lead?

    • I think Veronika Croatia is not following Orban’s lead because he refuses to take into Hungary the EU recommended refugee share while Croatia has already said it will take its share. This what is going on is simply a state of siege and paralysis and emergency – since I published my article yesterday there have been more than 12000 refugees/migrants enter Croatia and it’s that emergency that must be solved somehow as its unsustainable

  11. Sadly, this is only the beginning…

  12. …the Serbians, with help from the Russian KGB, are forcing these “migrants” into Croatia, that will result in bankruptcy and chaos!…all without firing a shot! These Serbian chetniks will NEVER stop trying to destroy Croatia, whether full frontal assault, rear guard, or some other more sublime scheme! The Bosniaks were friends with the Croats for centuries, but only because both had a common enemy….the serbian chetniks! But too many of these ottomans will result in cultural destruction of Croatia! Why does the Lady of Medjugorje do nothing to help the Croats and Lady of Fatima does nothing to “convert Russia to my sacred heart”?
    …well, because as the famous limousine socialist once quipped…
    “No one knows if this Jesus Christ existed, and if he did, NOTHING is known about him!”
    “WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN” Bertrand Russell 1928

  13. I realize that all of these immigrants are a lot for a smaller country to absorb, but the show of compassion, kindness and caring is so impressive. Bless the Croatian people for taking all of these people in and may they be blessed. Hugs, Barbara

  14. Reblogged this on IdealisticRebel's Daily View of Favorites.

  15. …just think of all the billions of $$$$$ that European tourism industry will lose because of these “poor” migrants! I was reading, that already they are agitating to implement sharia law in their own enclaves in Denmark and Germany! They don’t care if the stupid altruistic europeans allowed them into their homes and pay their welfare cheques!…their aim is to “convert or kill the infidel!”

    • Well, Tempus Fugit, they still live in countries where other laws rule so problems aplenty to solve I am sure. The future may well be different to what we know as far as homogeneity min one country is concerned

  16. Absolute madness!

  17. I give thanks dear Ina that there are still kind hearted souls out there willing to care and share what they have with these refugees.. And would we be in there shoes I would hope too for compassion and a hand to be held out to me..

    We have to accept that a chain of events has created this terrible situation and the world as we know it is changing rapidly beyond our imaginings..
    All of our Nations, have to come to terms with the statistics and embrace opportunities to reconcile and share..
    This can be a great turning point in our evolution or it can be our demise.. The choice’s we make now both as Heads of Nations and individuals will determine how our future worlds unfolds..

    I just hope dear Ina that Hearts win over past prejudices and ingrained indoctrinated thinking.. We are on the Cusp of creating a more harmonious world, if we let go of our Old Ways of BEing..

    To allow the New to Unfold, we have to learn to stop hanging onto our old thought patterns, most of which are tainted via our media..

    Yes these will be very difficult times for adjustment not only for the refugees but for those whose nations embrace them… And More bombing and Killing is not going to solve anything.. but then again we both know War is profitable and the longer some are kept going is in the interests of certain parties in our Global world..

    Just when will we learn? it seems if we do not, the prospects for a Future in any of our Nations will seriously be very questionable.

    As the economy of many of the EU countries is held on a thread.. May we all start to weave new threads that connect us via our compassionate nature and not our preconceived ideas of those fleeing, wishing only what we would wish.. Peace and a chance to live in a land of opportunity not suppression.

    An excellent article dear Ina..
    Love and Peace..
    Sue xxx

    • Thanks, Sue – indeed we need a force to unite in the future we want and that future must include compassion for fellow human being on all sides.

  18. So sad….

  19. Keep up the great reporting. and thank you

  20. Staying energised with positive energy and hope is very important, Voices from the Margins


  1. […] increasingly alarmed about the magnitude of the refugee crisis in Croatia and Europe. (Thank you, Ina Vukic, for your crucial and thought-provoking updates.) It made me wonder what we could do as a little […]

  2. […] Boyko Borisov on Saturday 24 October, the Slovenian government says fences are an option and Croatia’s president would like to send the army to guard the border with Serbia. Hungary’s fence was deemed […]

  3. […] Boyko Borisov on Saturday 24 October, the Slovenian government says fences are an option and Croatia’s president would like to send the army to guard the border with Serbia. Hungary’s fence was deemed […]

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