Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said Croatia would provide migrants with safe passage to reception centres around the capital, Zagreb, but that those not seeking asylum would be considered illegal immigrants. Croatia represents a longer and more hard route into Europe, but those fleeing violence in their homelands had little choice.
While the tough new measures have mostly stopped the flow across the border, isolated groups still managed to crawl under or climb over the forbidding barbed wire of the 175-kilometer (110-miles) border fence to enter the European Union.
Then, they ushered them onto Hungarian buses, saying they would be taken for registration.
“What else can we do?” he said at a news conference. “You are welcome in Croatia and you can pass through Croatia”.
Local women showed up with food, water and baby supplies, and there were emotional farewells as the train finally pulled away, with cries of “We love you!” from the departing migrants.
A day after Croatia opened its border to migrants, the country changed tack Thursday, closing seven border crossings with Serbia after thousands of people streamed in.
The country’s interior minister meanwhile suggested that his country may close its borders if faced with thousands more newcomers.
Migrants rest in a train at the railway station in Beli Manastir, near Hungarian border, northeast Croatia, early Friday, September 18, 2015. He appealed to the European Union to step in and help.
The Croatian government said minefields are clearly marked with large signs.
“I feel frustrated, we’re so exhausted”, said Siha, 35, from the Syrian city of Aleppo, the country’s commercial hub reduced in many parts to rubble since the Syrian war began in 2011.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto hit back, saying that siding with rioting migrants, who pelted Hungarian police with rocks on Wednesday in clashes that injured 20 police, was encouraging violence.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the first phase of the 41-kilometer (25-mile) barrier on the Croatian border will be completed Friday, with coils of razor wire being laid down before the actual fence goes up.
The incident took place at a small border crossing in Horgos, a short distance from the main border crossing into Hungary. Migrants slept on streets, on train tracks and at a local gas station. The situation calmed down but a few migrants moved off on foot, with police unable to stop them.
Mandica Yurisha, a Croatian Red Cross volunteer, said it was clear nobody wanted to remain in Croatia. By late Thursday a total of 9,200 people had entered the country in just 48 hours, police said, and other groups were trying to cross into neighboring Slovenia and Hungary. “I believe we have a moral duty (to) offer them protection”. Around 100 people were being held Friday at a makeshift processing center in the border town of Berizce.
Slovenian police said those freshly arrived from Croatia would simply be sent back there, according to the country’s state news agency. Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia are all products of the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Earlier this week Orban said Hungary might erect a fence along its border with Romania, bringing a stinging reaction from Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta. Hungary says it aims to decide whether someone is eligible for asylum within eight to 10 days.
However the migrant crisis has seen an informal relaxation in those rules.
There was little hope in sight for thousands of people stranded on the doorstep to Western Europe. Police used tear gas, batons and water cannons on those who tried to push open a border gate on Wednesday. “European rules”, she said, adding that refugees had a right to be treated decently. “We will do our best, but I cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so”.
“We are seeing the result of haphazard policies”, said Maurizio Albahari, a social anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame and author of “Crimes of Peace: Mediterranean Migrations at the World’s Deadliest Border”.