Thousands of Migrants Pour Into Austria After Being Bounced Around Europe

Migrants waited Saturday at Croatia’s Harmica border crossing, hoping to be allowed into Slovenia and, eventually, Austria. (PHOTO CREDIT: Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)
Migrants waited Saturday at Croatia’s Harmica border crossing, hoping to be allowed into Slovenia and, eventually, Austria. (PHOTO CREDIT: Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)

Thousands of migrants poured into Austria on Saturday after being bounced around countries overwhelmed by their arrival and insistent that they keep moving.

Hungary — which had taken the most draconian and visible measures to turn back the exodus, notably the construction of a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia — partly caved Friday evening. It grudgingly allowed at least 11,000 migrants to enter from Croatia, and then sent them by bus and train to processing centers along its border with Austria.

The Austrian authorities said that about 10,000 people entered the country on Saturday, from Slovenia and Hungary.

“I feel a deep feeling of relief,” said Rita Mohager, a Syrian student, after entering Austria from Slovenia on Saturday.

Ms. Mohager, 20, said her treacherous four-week journey had taken her from her hometown, Latakia, through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

Her trip was far from complete: She hoped to make her way to the Netherlands or Norway, to apply for asylum and enroll in school.

The humanitarian crisis in Central Europe threatens to become a geopolitical one. Diplomatic niceties were tossed aside as governments pointed fingers at one another.

In Croatia, which has recorded the arrival of 20,000 migrants since Wednesday — most from Serbia after being blocked from entering Hungary — Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic mocked Hungary’s attempt to refuse the migrants. “We forced them by sending people up there, and we’ll keep doing it,” he said at a news conference.

Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, said of Croatia: “Instead of honestly making provision for the immigrants, it sent them straight to Hungary. What kind of European solidarity is this?”

In Slovenia, which has become the latest epicenter of the crisis, Prime Minister Miro Cerar raised the possibility of a “corridor” that would allow migrants safe passage from the Balkans to points further north and west.

“If the pressure of refugees becomes too severe, we will talk about corridors in the light of joint European agreements,” Mr. Cerar said. “If the flow becomes greater, we will encourage actions in such direction.”

But there was little indication that European leaders, who have been unable to reach any kind of coordinated and orderly response to the crisis, would embrace such an approach. Germany, the dominant power in Europe, initially laid out a welcome mat for asylum seekers, but then, overwhelmed by a surge of migrants, imposed controls along its border with Austria.

Germany favors a plan that would compel European Union members to take in the newcomers in proportion to their wealth and population, but that proposal has found little support.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Sewell Chan and Palko Karasz

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