Croatian leader slams Hungary fence plan

Croatia’s prime minister has dismissed Hungary’s plan to build a fence between the two countries, arguing that nothing would be able to stop those seeking sanctuary in richer European countries.

Croatia’s Zoran Milanovic did not hold back in his criticism of Hungary’s Viktor Orban as he visited a transit camp in the eastern village of Opatovac, suggesting the leaders of the neighbour states were barely speaking.

Milanovic said there is “no river border between Croatia and Hungary and it is virtually impossible to hold this bitter river of people at bay”.

“It’s not right,” he said. “So I will not talk to Orban. I wonder whoever speaks to him.”

The possibility of a fence between Hungary and Croatia has sparked concern in the region ever since Hungary closed its border with Serbia on September 15.

The action diverted people to Croatia, swelling roads near its border with thousands fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

The nation of 4.2m has channelled people onto Hungary and Slovenia and another wall would complicate the situation.

Asylum-seekers are travelling through rain and muddy roads in Croatia, as worsening autumn weather plagues their journeys.

Some 85,000 people have entered Croatia in the past two weeks and fears are growing about the travels of thousands more still on the move.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says record numbers have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, straining the EU and prompting a wave of border closures.

As of yesterday, the group says 522,124 people have travelled by sea to reach the continent this year, compared to some 219,000 people in all of last year.

Some 388,000 have entered via Greece, more than 175,000 of them from war-torn Syria. Another 6,710 Syrians entered through Italy.

IOM estimates that 2,892 people have died at sea, the vast majority on the route from North Africa to Italy.

In the time since September 15, when tough new legislation took effect, a court ruled in 176 cases, sentencing refugees mostly from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq to expulsion from Hungary for crossing the fence.

Nobody has been acquitted. Just 10 cases have been appealed.

The new law is part of a clamp-down by prime minister Orban’s right-wing government aimed at stopping the influx of refugees into Hungary, the first EU state in the Schengen zone of passport-free travel.


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