Croatia Closes Border Crossings With Serbia After Migrant Influx

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By Henry Austin

Croatia closed all but one of its border crossings with neighboring Serbia Friday after struggling to cope with a huge influx of migrants and refugees.

Officials said they had no choice after more than 11,000 people had entered the country since Hungary fenced off its border with Serbia earlier this week.

Hungarian Police used tear gas, batons and water cannons on those who tried to push open a border gate on Wednesday, leading to criticism from the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

But it triggered the move by thousands of migrants who had traveled to Serbia via Macedonia and Greece, to try to reach Western Europe via Croatia instead.

Many are Syrians and Iraqis fleeing war, who are seeking safety and prosperity in Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe.

"Returning back to our country is impossible, because we have no financial means or the moral strength to go back home," Abu Mohamed who fled Idlib in Syria, told The Associated Press.

He said he had left his wife and children behind in the hopes of making it to Europe. Europeans have nothing to fear from people like himself, he added.

"We are coming with our modest Islamic perspectives,” he added. “Terrorism remains back home, terrorism is not coming with us. We were the victims and oppressed back home in our societies."

But Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said the country had "limited capacity" after the country closed its borders.

While Croatia has attempted to take the newcomers to asylum centers, the overwhelming numbers mean that many people have been left on the streets.

Hundreds also remained stranded at the Serbian border crossings, drawing protest from the country’s social affairs minister Aleksandar Vulin.

Serbia would take Croatia to international courts if the border crossings remained closed, he said.

Meanwhile, Hungary began building a fence on its borders with Croatia, similar to the one they completed on their border with Serbia earlier this week.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told public radio on Friday that hundreds of soldiers would be deployed to complete the project on the 21 mile stretch of border, where the two countries are not divided by a river. Hungary is also planning a fence on the Romanian border.

Slovenia, like Hungary, also appeared unwilling to take in the inflow. Slovenian police said those arriving from Croatia would simply be sent back there, according to the country's state news agency.

German Federal Police told NBC News Friday that 2,424 refugees and migrants entered the country on Thursday.