Bloody violence has broken out between Syrian and Afghan migrants this afternoon after they were seen fighting to board trains across Croatia.
Rocks, smashed glass bottles and sticks were used as violence broke out at the Beli Manastir train station in the northeast of the country.
A number of migrants were injured during the clashes while police officers used batons as they tried to break up the fight, which started at the ticket office.
The chaotic scenes unfolded as Hungary continued to build a giant fence along the Croatian border – just days after sealing off access from Serbia with a 100 mile razor-wire barrier.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said a ‘fast-solution’ fence will be finished on a 26 mile stretch of the border – where the two countries are not divided by a river – by the end of today.
Hundreds of Hungarian troops are being called in to help build the barrier just days after the country erected a huge fence along its border with Serbia.
Migrants continued to stream in from Serbia in to Croatia this morning, walking through fields around one of seven road border crossings that Zagreb closed after an influx of more than 14,000 people in just two days.
Croatia’s Prime Minister said today that border guards will redirect migrants to Hungary and Slovenia – an announcement the Hungarian government described as ‘totally unacceptable’ as a war of words erupted this afternoon.
There have been reports that Croatia has already started transporting thousands of migrants and refugees to its northeastern frontier with Hungary, with at least two coachloads crossing the frontier.
Some 22 buses arrived at the border opposite the Hungarian village Beremend, each carrying around 60 people. There they were met by around 200 Hungarian police and 50 soldiers, who allowed two of the buses to cross the frontier, witnesses said.
After crossing, the passengers disembarked and were transferred into Hungarian buses which set off for an unknown destination.
It comes as the UN refugee agency warned of a ‘buildup’ of migrants and refugees in Serbia as its neighbors tighten their borders to the influx.
Tensions boiled over among some migrants in the Croatian town of Beli Manastir, just over the border from Hungary, angry groups of Afghan and Syrian migrants, waiting for trains to Zagreb, fought with rocks and sticks at a ticket office.
Rocks, smashed bottles and broken sticks littered the ground while a handful of police in ordinary uniforms tried to restore control.
At the Tovarnik railway station, around 3,000 migrants waited for buses and trains in the heat, women and children searching for shade under sparse trees.
Announcing the construction of the a razor wire fence along part of the Croatian border, Orban said this morning: ‘During the night work already began on building the technical border closure… It seems we can rely on help from no one.
‘The western Balkans route is still there. The fact the Hungarian-Serbian border is now closed has not stopped the flow.’
Adrian Edwards of UNHCR says ‘the crisis is growing and being pushed from one country to another’ as roughly 4,000 migrants and refugees pour into Greece each day and head north.
He says stricter border controls first by Hungary and more recently Croatia threaten a bottleneck in Serbia, ‘which is not a country with a robust asylum system.’
Edwards said: ‘You aren’t going to solve these problems by closing borders.’
UNHCR says more than 442,440 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year, and 2,921 have died trying. But the International Organization for Migration puts those figures at 473,887 and 2,812, respectively.
In Turkey, several hundred migrants who have been blocked by police in the northwest from crossing overland into Greece drew closer to the border today after the authorities briefly opened the route.
From their makeshift camp on the outskirts of the border city of Edirne the migrants – mostly Syrian refugees – began walking in the direction of the city centre, beyond which lies the road to Greece. But less than two hours later they came to a halt, after the police erected a new cordon just outside Edirne.
Encouraged by the #Crossingnomore social media campaign, which called for migrants to be allowed to travel safely overland to Greece rather than risk their lives at sea, up to 1,000 refugees had flocked to the city since Monday.
But on Tuesday police sealed off the main road into the city from the east and sealed off access to the bus station, preventing migrants arriving from other Turkish cities by bus from continuing their journey westwards.
In Croatia, officials last night announced it had shut almost all road crossings from Serbia, saying it could not take in any more migrants.
But the flow continued unabated this morning as migrants arrived by bus in the Serbian border town of Sid and walked through cornfields to cross the border, joining huge crowds controlled by Croatian police.
Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said this morning that the country will redirect people toward Hungary and Slovenia and further toward Western Europe.
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.
He 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.’
It comes as the European statistics agency said 213,200 people had applied for asylum in the European Union in the second quarter of 2015, with Germany receiving more than a third of the new arrivals.
Eurostat says the number of people seeking refuge was 85 percent higher than a year earlier, and up 15 percent on the first three months of the year.
Croatia has become the route of choice for those hoping to reach western Europe, but it has struggled to cope – and Ranko Ostojic, Croatia’s interior minister, warned those still planning on making the trip that it was not the easy route to places like Germany and Sweden.
‘Don’t come here anymore. Stay in refugee centers in Serbia and Macedonia and Greece,’ Ostojic said yesterday. ‘This is not the road to Europe. Buses can’t take you there. It’s a lie.’
Meanwhile, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned this morning that countries that do not share European values of ‘human sympathy and solidarity’ cannot count on receiving money from the bloc.
Renewing a threat issued this week by his cabinet colleague, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, Gabriel said that while Germany was opening gymnasiums, barracks and homes to refugee families, other countries were ‘laying barbed wire on their borders and closing the gates’.
But this afternoon, a top EU official said that Balkan nations were not a ‘parking lot’ for migrants and pledged to fully defend their interests.
‘You are not a parking lot for refugees, you are also victims of the situation and we won’t leave you,’ European Union Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn told the Macedonian parliament.
‘All the countries of the EU are targets of the refugee stream and have the task to protect the external borders,’ he said.
Hahn said the EU was ‘fully committed to defend you (Macedonia), but also Serbia and other countries from the Western Balkans.’
Tens of thousands of migrants have been pouring into Balkan countries in a bid to cross into the EU’s visa-free travel zone and go on to Germany, which has opened its doors to Syrian refugees.
Roads leading to the Croatian border crossing were closed last night and only one, linking Belgrade and Zagreb, appeared to still be open.
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