As Borders Shut, Migrants Build up in Serbia

The latest developments as European governments rush to cope with the huge number of people moving across Europe.

Published: 18th September 2015 06:10 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th September 2015 06:21 PM   |  A+A-

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By AP

ZAGREB, Croatia: The latest developments as European governments rush to cope with the huge number of people moving across Europe. All times local (CET):

Read More: Croatia Seeks to Redirect Migrants Toward Hungary, Slovenia

2:15 p.m.

The U.N. refugee agency is warning of a "buildup" of migrants in Serbia as its neighbors tighten their borders to the influx of people fleeing war and poverty.

Adrian Edwards of UNHCR says "the crisis is growing and being pushed from one country to another" as roughly 4,000 people pour into Greece each day and head north. He says stricter border controls by Hungary and Croatia threaten a bottleneck in Serbia, "which is not a country with a robust asylum system."

Speaking Friday, Edwards said: "You aren't going to solve these problems by closing borders."

UNHCR says more than 442,440 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe this year, and 2,921 have died trying. The International Organization for Migration puts those figures at 473,887 and 2,812 respectively.

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1:45 p.m.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says the European Union must take control of its borders or the European Schengen agreement for passport-free travel across the continent "will be challenged."

Valls says it is urgent to find an agreement on permanently relocating refugees, saying Europe currently is facing "an unprecedented migration."

Valls says the EU must also decide on a policy for returning people who left their home countries for economic reasons and don't qualify for asylum.

He spoke Friday in Stockholm where he met his Swedish counterpart Stefan Lofven ahead of a meeting on migrants in Vienna.

Both called for a solution where "all countries in the EU share their responsibility," Lofven said.

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1:35 p.m.

A spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency has called for a joint European response to the migrant crisis, saying countries cannot cope individually.

Babar Baloch, regional spokesman for Central Europe for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Friday that his organization is capable of handling the humanitarian response to the migrant crisis, but "what's missing is a collective EU action."

Baloch says that "within three days we can put in place mechanism for refugee arrivals," or "empty our warehouses in Dubai, Copenhagen and other places."

He adds "we know how to do the job, but the responsibility, the moral and legal responsibility here is on the countries in the European Union." Countries "need to do it together," he says.

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1:20 p.m.

Hungary's government spokesman says Croatia's decision to redirect migrants entering the country toward Hungary and Slovenia is "totally unacceptable."

Zoltan Kovacs told The Associated Press on Friday that although Croatia knew exactly what it would be confronted with, its "supply system collapsed in a single day. Hungary has been holding its own for the ninth consecutive month."

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said earlier that Croatia's capacities were full and the authorities could no longer register migrants in accordance with EU rules.

Kovacs said it was "totally unacceptable for a European country to not respect European rules just because it was unprepared," predicting that Croatia would be "set back by many years" in its efforts to join the EU's Schengen zone of passport-free travel.

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12:40 p.m.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic says Croatia cannot and will not close its borders, but will redirect people toward Hungary and Slovenia and further toward Western Europe.

It wasn't immediately clear how that would solve the situation because both Hungary and Slovenia are taking steps to keep migrants out.

Milanovic said that Croatia's capacities are full and that the authorities no longer can register people in accordance with EU rules. He said the country will let them pass through and suggested it will transfer them to its borders, primarily the Hungarian border.

Milanovic said: "What else can we do? You are welcome in Croatia and you can pass through Croatia. But, go on. Not because we don't like you but because this is not your final destination."

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12:25 p.m.

German security officials say Islamic extremists are reaching out to migrants with the aim of recruiting them.

The head of Germany's domestic intelligence service said in an interview published Friday that "we can see that Salafists are presenting themselves as benefactors and helpers."

Hans-Georg Maassen told the Rheinische Post daily that the Salafists are "specifically seeking contact, issuing invitations to visit notorious mosques, in order to recruit refugees for their cause."

Security officials estimate that some 7,500 people in Germany subscribe to Salafism, a strict interpretation of Islam that rejects many modern democratic rights.

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12:00 p.m.

German officials say trains carrying migrants may be diverted past Munich in the coming days to prevent a clash with the city's annual beer festival.

Some 6 million visitors are expected to come to Munich for the Oktoberfest, which starts Saturday and runs through Oct. 4.

A spokesman for Munich police says special trains bringing migrants from the border may also be taken to a separate train station, or police could escort migrants arriving at the city's main station past the crowds of tourists.

Peter Beck told The Associated Press on Friday that he doesn't expect migrants to go to the festival grounds themselves.

Some 1,600 migrants came to Munich on Thursday, and another 300 arrived in the city Friday morning.

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11:50 a.m.

Slovenia's government has scheduled a meeting of its security council as the small Alpine nation braces for an influx of migrants from Croatia.

Authorities expect thousands of people will attempt to cross into Slovenia on Friday after more than 13,000 entered neighboring Croatia in little over two days.

Most migrants want to move on toward Western Europe. Slovenia's Prime Minister Miro Cerar has ruled out creating a north-bound corridor for the migrants.

Slovenia has said it will return migrants coming in from Croatia. Dozens attempting to cross have already been held up by Slovenian police.

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11:10 a.m.

Czech police and military will conduct a joint drill to be ready to deal with a possible increased numbers of migrants.

The drill will be conducted along the country's borders and will include hundreds of service members with planes and helicopters.

Interior Minister Milan Cjovanec says its goal is "to test the ability of the forces to cooperate in crisis situations."

Friday's announcement comes three days after Prime Minster Bohuslav Sobotka said his government is ready to deploy the armed forces to protect the country's borders against migrants.

Czech police already boosted its presence on the Austrian-Czech border on Sunday in response to Germany's decision to renew border controls along its border with Austria. But the Czechs haven't renewed border checks yet.

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11:00 a.m.

Five German soccer clubs say they are boycotting a show of solidarity for refugees this weekend.

SC Freiburg, VfL Bochum, 1. FC Nuernberg and 1. FC Union Berlin said on their website that players won't be wearing special patches promoted by German daily Bild.

Bochum and Nuernberg said they are distancing themselves from the event because of the newspaper's criticism of another club's refusal to take part.

FC St. Pauli, whose fans are traditionally left-wing, said earlier this week that it has long supported refugees and didn't want to participate in Bild's event.

The initiative was announced earlier this week and involved players carrying a patch on their left arm saying "We're helping, (hashtag)refugeeswelcome."

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10:50 a.m.

Germany's foreign minister says it may be necessary to force Eastern European countries to accept quotas for migrants.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier says in a newspaper interview published Friday that Germany, Austria, Sweden and Italy can't bear all the burden of migrants coming to Europe.

But some countries, mostly in Eastern Europe, have opposed consensus on the distribution of migrants according to pre-determined quotas.

Steinmeier told the Passauer Neue Presse daily that "if there is no other way we need to seriously consider using the instrument of a majority decision."

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10:40 a.m.

Treading slowly through vast areas of cornfields, groups of migrants have been entering Croatia despite the move by authorities to shut down almost all official border crossings with neighboring Serbia.

Some 2,000 people have gathered in the eastern Croatian border town of Tovarnik waiting for bus or train rides to the refugee centers. One train with eleven carriages left Friday morning carrying hundreds to refugee centers in the capital Zagreb and elsewhere.

Those still in Tovarnik are sitting of lying on the ground. Some are sleeping, others standing in groups, chatting and discussing what to do next.

Croatian police have been taking the migrants to the asylum centers for registration, but most want to move on toward Western Europe. Hundreds of those fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have been converging near the train station in the capital, Zagreb.

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9:50 a.m.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban says that his country has started building a razor-wire fence along a stretch of its border with Croatia to keep migrants from entering the country in that area.

Orban says the first phase of the 41-kilometer (25 mile) barrier will be completed on Friday, with coils of razor wire in place before an actual fence goes up.

He said on state radio that he is deploying hundreds of soldiers and police to the border to prepare the fence and defend the border.

Earlier this week Hungary sealed off its southern border with Serbia with a 4-meter (13-foot) high razor-wire fence and began arresting migrants who try to enter the country. Baton-wielding riot police also used tear gas and water cannons on migrants after a group tried to break through a gate on the Hungary-Serbia border.

Since then, some migrants have tried to enter Hungary through sections of the border with Croatia, while many others have opted to take a longer route through Croatia and Slovenia toward Western Europe.

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9:40 a.m.

Croatian police say some 13,300 migrants have entered the country from Serbia since the first groups started arriving more than two days ago.

Croatia on Friday closed all border crossings with Serbia except one in an effort to control the flow which has strained authorities.

Despite the move, migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have been coming into Croatia through the corn fields. Most of them want to move on toward Germany or the Scandinavian countries.

The migrants have turned to Croatia for a corridor to Western Europe after Hungary used force to push them away from its territory.

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8:30 a.m.

Croatian authorities say they have closed all border crossings with Serbia but one after straining to cope with 11,000 migrants and refugees who have entered the country after Hungary closed off its border.

Serbian officials, fearing that the closure would block thousands of migrants inside the country, protested Zagreb's move.

Aleksandar Vulin, Serbia's social affairs minister, said Serbia will take Croatia to international courts if the international border crossings remain closed.

Meanwhile, Slovenia has been returning migrants to Croatia and has stopped all rail traffic between the two countries.

Croatian authorities say the situation is worst in the eastern Croatian town of Beli Manastir, where thousands of refugees have converged and caught local authorities unprepared.

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8:15 a.m.

Activists say conditions at a refugee registration center in the southeast German city of Passau became untenable overnight.

A volunteer who has helped migrants arriving in the Bavarian city says more than 2,000 people were crammed into two large halls, with no medics or interpreters on site.

Dagmar Haase told The Associated Press on Friday that she and other volunteers spent the night at the site handing out food to migrants.

A spokesman for Germany's federal police, which run the site, says some 4,000 migrants came across the border from Austria on Thursday.

Thomas Schweikl says that while medics aren't on-site at all times, ambulances can be called when necessary. He wasn't immediately able to comment on the number of refugees at the site overnight.

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