Croatia: Normality Not Possible On Humanitarian Catastrophe Skid Row

Screenshot Euronews 23 October 2015 At the Border Between Croatia and Serbia

Screenshot Euronews 23 October 2015
At the Border Between
Croatia and Serbia


The flood of people shows no sign of slowing even though cold, wet and miserable weather conditions have set in. Over 250,000 refugees and migrants have passed through Croatia in past six weeks with the increasing likelihood and fear that transfer to other countries such a Slovenia to assist them in reaching their desired destination in Western Europe will not be possible. Hence, temporary accommodation places are being opened in Croatia, the latest being in Slavonski Brod (a disused building in past used for administration for INA company will be fixed quickly)  to house some 5,000, and more and more countries painfully nursing the fear that they will be left with thousands of needy people and scanty resources.

The Humanitarian catastrophe is suffocating the very breath of all and normal living is fast becoming something that was.

The refugee and migrant crisis has centered on Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia in recent days as that route to Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden …gives rise to all sorts of touching stories of human compassion but also of those of fear of the unknown and what that unknown may do to the standard of life Europeans have been used to and have not been asked if they wish to share or lower.

Crossing Into Croatia From Serbia 24 October 2015 Photo: Zeljko Lukunic/Pixsell

Crossing Into Croatia From Serbia
24 October 2015
Photo: Zeljko Lukunic/Pixsell

Last week German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that her government will quickly send back all those arriving at its borders who are not genuine refugees but found to be people looking for a better life – illegal migrants. Reportedly some 190,000 already in Germany for some time have been identified as those to be deported, said Croatian HRT TV news from Friday 23 October. This seems to have poured deeper panic among those fleeing Middle East through Croatia and surrounding countries as they show urgency and impatience to reach their desired destination in Western Europe (before doors close?). So we come across desperate night transfers, walking across rivers in the cold of the night to reach Slovenia, the next stop on route to Austria, toppling fences and barriers – pushing and trampling on each other … Desperation on the rise.

It is clear by now that not everyone who is crossing European (or any other for that matter) is a refugee; many are migrants coming for other reasons than fleeing from persecution. Refugees are people who have been forced out of their home country against their will. The word “migrant” can mean someone who moves to a foreign country voluntarily, or it can be used as a broader umbrella term that includes refugees as well as voluntary migrants. For example, a Syrian man fleeing war is a refugee, whereas a Cameroonian man seeking economic opportunity is a migrant. Whether someone is considered a refugee or a migrant effects what sorts of legal rights they have: Refugees can apply for asylum and are protected by international and domestic law, for example, while economic migrants cannot. There is no such thing as an “illegal asylum-seeker” — refugees can seek asylum in another country without obtaining a visa or resettlement authorization first. Economic migrants, by contrast, are usually required to have a visa or other form of work authorization in order to immigrate legally.

Walking to Brezice, Slovenia, From Croatia 23 October 2015 Photo: Reuters/Pixsell

Walking to Brezice, Slovenia,
From Croatia 23 October 2015
Photo: Reuters/Pixsell

Distinguishing between the two becomes political, especially in a crisis like the one battering the life and the peaceful spirit of Europe. Calling a group of people “refugees” also acknowledges that such people are legitimately deserving of shelter and care, whereas calling them “migrants” can more often than not result in accusing them of arriving for economic reasons, and perhaps even lying about their asylum claims in order to exploit the “Western” entitlement programs, which, by the way the “Western” citizens have earned through hard work, through paying taxes and generally having had good economic and other governance throughout the past decades. Such stands are often called anti-immigration even in the face of the fact that if a “Westerner” wanted to go, work and live in an another Western country as his own renders him/her unemployed and destitute, he/she must obtain a proper visa, which is more often than not impossible to obtain.
In recent months particularly, the UNHCR has been asking that the people crossing the Mediterranean or coming to Europe via other routes such as the one across Greece be labelled ‘refugees and migrants.’ This stance appears to be a reasonable compromise in the efforts to deal with madness that has hit an unprepared Europe (World), but is also unsettling because it insists that refugees and migrants are fundamentally (as in UN protection entitlements) different from each other.
UNHCR: “…protecting refugees was made the core mandate of the UN refugee agency, which was set up to look after refugees, specifically those waiting to return home at the end of World War II.
The 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is someone who ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.’
Since then, UNHCR has offered protection and assistance to tens of millions of refugees, finding durable solutions for many of them. Global migration patterns have become increasingly complex in modern times, involving not just refugees, but also millions of economic migrants. But refugees and migrants, even if they often travel in the same way, are fundamentally different, and for that reason are treated very differently under modern international law.
Migrants, especially economic migrants, choose to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families. Refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom. They have no protection from their own state – indeed it is often their own government that is threatening to persecute them. If other countries do not let them in, and do not help them once they are in, then they may be condemning them to death – or to an intolerable life in the shadows, without sustenance and without rights.

Refugees rushing across green-belts from Croatia into Slovenia 23 October 2015

Refugees rushing across green-belts
from Croatia into Slovenia
23 October 2015

The UNHCR ‘two kinds of people’ policy is, some say, troubling on many levels. “First of all, it undermines the humanitarian principles that should guide our response to emergencies. When people drown at sea or suffocate in lorries, our first question should not be ‘so, which kind were they, refugees or migrants?’ Narratives about ‘two kinds of people,’ are, paradoxically, a central ingredient in many of the conflicts that thousands are forced to flee,” writes Jørgen Carling, Research Professor at Peace Research Institute Oslo.
The ‘two kinds of people’ argument is further undermined by the drawn-out trajectories of many current migrants. A Nigerian arriving in Italy might have left Nigeria for reasons other than a fear of persecution, but ended up fleeing extreme danger in Libya. Conversely, a Syrian might have crossed into Jordan and found safety from the war, but been prompted by the bleak prospects of indeterminate camp life to make the onward journey to Europe. Regardless of the legal status that each one obtains in Europe, they are both migrants who have made difficult decisions, who deserve our compassion, and whose rights need to be ensured”.


Justifiably, many will reply that rights of refugees and migrants cannot and should not be ensured at the expense or neglect of other people’s rights. Indeed, the domestic population of countries affected by this refugee and migration crisis finds itself pondering and agonising on this very truth.


Slovenian policemen escort a group of migrants from a train towards a camp in Sentilj, Slovenia, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015. Thousands of people are trying to reach central and northern Europe via the Balkans but often have to wait for days in mud and rain at the Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian borders. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Slovenian policemen escort a group of migrants from a train arriving from Croatia towards a camp in Sentilj, Slovenia, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015.  (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

This crisis is about millions of people who have been forced from their countries, or have made decisions to flee abject poverty, and need a new country to call home even though many do exclaim they want to return to their country once the war in their homeland stops. Addressing the crisis will require resettling the people on the run. Countries that seem capable of absorbing them, wealth-wise, are experiencing increasing unrest from their own citizens as political anxieties about large-scale immigration that come with the prospect of having to absorb so many cultural and religious strangers keep rising.
For those of who live in those countries, addressing the crisis and solving it means, at this stage, accepting that their communities will look and feel different from how they have in the past. It requires enormous sacrifice for many as they attempt adjusting their vision of how their future communities will look like and what changes will need to be made for a peaceful and respectful coexistence. This is a major “ask” of every government where floods of refugees or migrants are capturing the attention of media and authorities and yet it seems not many governments are addressing that question as equally deserving as dealing with the refugees and migrants.
There is an emergency European Union summit organized for Sunday 25 October and if it fails to produce a solution to the crisis that is acceptable particularly to the European citizens the coming weeks and months will see another crisis looming: EU states affected will likely start acting on their own with the primary aim to protect their own citizens and without a plan for expansion of refugee intake program. It’s been weeks since EU had delivered a decision to distribute refugees according to set quotas among different member states but this plan, encountering opposition in several countries, has failed to launch.

Refugees and migrants Dobova, Slovenia, at Croatian border 22 October 2015 Phopto: Reuters

Refugees and migrants
Dobova, Slovenia, at Croatian border
22 October 2015
Phopto: Reuters

According to Xinhuanet news a draft for the EU emergency summit for Sunday 25 October the countries on the so-called Balkan migratory route (which includes Croatia) would no longer be allowed to transport refugees to neighboring borders without prior agreement with their neighbours. Such a motion is likely to be defeated but if it’s not it will cause enormous unrest in Europe and lead to life-threatening, highly-charged with anger and hatred instability for all: refugees, migrants as well as the domestic population. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Clear and Concise Ina.
    I have tremendous sympathy for the refugees in camps outside their own countries and willing to undertake such journeys to ensue their safety and the safety of their families. The richest countries of the world ( some of who have fomented the wars that have created this situation) have a duty of care towards these poor people knocking at their door.
    I have a lot of sympathy for economic migrants too who want to better their lot, but here I have more sympathy for the Governments who must ensure the wellbeing of their own people. That wellbeing must include ensuring that economic prosperity or just economic stability doesn’t disappear down the deep dark hole of benefits depleting the National pot.I’m afraid that those not in danger at home should be returned there until the humanitarian crisis has been dealt with and the situation looked at again.
    I do believe that economic migrants these days need either to be looked at for their skill set in relation to a host country or for their ability to self support for a period of no less than five years before having access to the public purse.
    I hope this madness in the World soon solves itself before we’re back at war again.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Thanks David. I agree with you and it’s staring to smell like war if we don’t get our act together and deal with this crisis with a live and let live attitude. Sharing ones “fortunes” does come hard as humans are so intent on “owning things” and that is most pronounced in the developed countries – that’s why politicians must go to the people and solve this jointly, otherwise revolt, revolt, revolt with a compassionate stroke every now and then

  2. This is a very sad situation, we as humans should all be ashamed of ourselves for this because we chose governments that betrayed us and chose not to call them on their mistakes, rather turned our heads because we think we can’t do anything about it. Those that created the wars and invented “terrorism” should be paying for all of this. According to some UN treaty, if a country bombs another country they are required to pay for damaged civilian infrustructure, otherwise, we are all victims of someone’s war. This was is a US NATO war against terrorism they created so they could sell more arms to both sides, yet we sit here and try to define the difference between a migrant and refugee. How dare we? We are all human beings and we ALL have the right to life and prosperity. Whether they are economic migrants or victims of war, makes no difference, either way, they are wanting a better life just like we are. This was done on purpose, closing down borders, passing us a few Euros for taking care of this massive influx and it might be our destruction. I hear that Croatia is on the list for another Greece, you know, knock them down and lend them money. This is a very touchy subject for me because we keep coming up with different names for “humans”. We are all human beings and we should be fighting to be treated equally by our governments if not, revolution, it seems they don’t hear anything else.

    • You have touched upon some painful truths here, Ines. Most would agree with you that those who cause or participate in wars and create damages to civilian lives and livelihood should immediately start paying compensation or pay for their upkeep until they can live independent of handouts as before war. This whole situation is frightening for refugees and for those trying to help them. Such mass migration/fleeing requires seismic shifts of very large proportion in the way people (not politicians) get involved in solving the crisis.

  3. What was unimaginable before is possible today – that is the disintegration of the European project – Mutual mistrust among EU governments has reached alarming levels, While German Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging EU countries to open their doors and their hearts to refugees, other leaders see the top priorities as controlling the EU’s external borders to stem arrivals, deporting more people denied asylum and paying third countries to keep refugees on their soil. Merkel invites refugees despite strong objections from her own German public – is she brave or is she going against her own people? For what end?

  4. Support for far-right parties fanning fears of foreigners, Islam and terrorism is soaring in France, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. British Eurosceptics are using the crisis to buttress their arguments for voting to leave the EU in a forthcoming referendum. Governments in central and eastern Europe are resisting demands from Berlin and Brussels to admit mandatory quotas of refugees. A swing to the nationalist right in Poland is likely to harden that front…Does one protect ones home and ones way of life or does one throw arms in the air and let the unknown unfold? Certainly with these photos and the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea Nostradamus was right about the invasion of Europe by people from the Middle East…It’ll all happen and the leaders of EU countries will still be bickering and fighting each other on matters of shallow principles and trying to look better than the other when all should unite in same aims: protect European way of life before it truly gets too late.

    • Indeed Wade, calamitous times wherever one turns. Such a shame it’s taking so long for European countries to truly join heads, take equal doses of responsibility and solve the crisis.

  5. Nice post really lays out the situation clearly and concisely Ina Just added you post to news room here regards Ian

    Croatia: Normality Not Possible On Humanitarian Catastrophe Skid Row | Ace News Room

  6. Thanks for this clear picture of the crisis. What I see are fighting-age men for the most part, who seem to be demanding the freedoms and social securities paid for with the treasure and blood of others. They don’t seem to be asking for refuge, they seem to be demanding it. I look at the trash and litter as well, and ask, “Can it be expected that they would respect any country?” And I ask, “If they are not willing to fight for freedom in their own country, would they be willing to stand with me and fight for freedom in mine?”

    • Very astute, Robert. Furthermore, the West is telling their citizens that there are no entitlements when it comes to welfare, etc, and yet tolerates this flood of people who present with entitlement claims – no one yet as far as I can see has asked the taxpayers of those countries what portion of their tax money should go to help others, politicians make the calls. The sense of entitlement at the expense of others has steadily been built and advocated since the start of UN and we are seeing the effects now…

  7. Thats the same people think in Siria,..

  8. some very sad news 🙁

  9. OMG! What will be the end of this catastrophic?

  10. Great article Ina. I’m appalled by the way things are handled. I agree with David that the rich Western countries have a duty of care to the refugees and the ‘burden’ needs to be distributed evenly throughout the EU countries. It is shameful that some take advantage of their geographical location and let those countries ‘first in line’ deal with it on their own. It is cuasing damage on so many levels.

    • So true, Christoph and I hear nothing good will come out of the emergency summit EU Sunday 25 Oct – reportedly countries are not to send on refugees to next country without mutual prior agreements and negotiations – Germany driver of this policy – well now they want to slow it all down and Germany was the one that kept inviting them to come! Now it wants to slow down – but no one can slow it down, they run across fields, rivers, trample everywhere – in a hurry to reach Germany or some such Western European country. Just tragic

  11. The problem with quotas and ‘fair distribution’ is that they simply will not work. Migrants have clear preferences and they will continue their journey even after enforced resettlement.
    I fear this issue of border control will take UK out of Europe.

    • Not only do they have a clear preference, Andrew, but somehow they’ve been allowed to keep thinking they’re entitled to choice they make regardless of UN etc distribution…Not the profile post WWII refugees went through – had to wait in camps year, two, three…then take what was on offer….Yes I think so UK will keep being smart for too many cooks do spoil the broth/ with EU one doesn’t know who to listen to or indeed who has authority to make anything happen…this way it’ll all crumble…

  12. …unfortunately, there seems NO end to this migrant crisis, as these people have NOTHING to lose! Europe will have to suspend its democracy to stop the inflow, and if not, they won’t
    stop coming until Europe will collapse! I didn’t think that western civilization would collapse in our lifetime….maybe in 50 years, but not this soon! Maybe Great Britain and the United States should take the bulk of these migrants into their borders, as they have caused the wars and misery, that these people are fleeing from!?
    …some interesting books on the “evil empire”….!

    “England: The Evil Empire” by Steven Grasse (2008) &
    “Treacherous Albion” by Dr. Richard Spence

    • Perhaps a miracle will happen, Tempus Fugit, and wars will stop but not likely – indeed there are many who criticise Britain and US and say they caused the wars and views flare but there are also those who say wars had to be…all that is futile in the face of such tragedy whicever way one looks at it and I do agree firmer hand is needed than what classical democracy suggests

  13. Reblogged this on Edilio Ciclostile.

  14. The news here in the UK has been more silent about the Refugee Crisis Ina.. preferring to concentrate on VW and Football Fraud..

    The world which ever way we look at things is changing.. These Migrants are not going back.. And the shape of our world is altering before our very eyes..

    The plain truth is ALL of Humanity as an obligation to each other..And ALL of our countries especially the UK and the USA should take more ownership of creating this mess in the first place..
    The more I learn on how Bush and Blair were in agreement of War far in advance of it happening shows how contrived the war in the middle east was.. Which led to the fractions and rebellions..

    I am not a politically minded person.. But the EU is changing.. Our own immigrants from the EU countries are still pouring in…
    But you can not keep putting these people in camps for ever..

    Cyprus is a prime example at the moment.. And it is only generating more hatred, keeping these people against their free will..

    Where it will end who knows.. I dread to think.. but the problem is not going to disappear.. ALL Nations have to come together and not keep passing the Buck..

    As always Ina, your posts are full of information, the Media News is not giving us…
    Thank you for all you share..

    Love Sue xx <3

    • I agree Sue that they cannot be in camps forever and the asylum applications need to be processed much quicker so that rights and safety are satisfied as quickly as possible and countries need to share the load especially those allied in efforts of what has been happening in the Middle East – the consequences of wars and unrest are only too horrific and mostly for the innocent population of those countries who are forced to seek a place to live because theirs has been utterly destroyed. Hugs, Sue

  15. Reblogged this on Anno Domini 2015 / News.

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