Refugees Seek Other Routes to West as Austria Halts Border Trains

by Laura Saravia, Andy Eckardt and Henry Austin /  / Updated 

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Passenger trains between Austria and Germany were halted "until further notice" Wednesday as border restrictions tightened, forcing migrants and refugees to seek alternative routes into western Europe - including through Croatia.

No trains departed from Salzburg towards Germany after 11 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET), a spokeswoman for the country’s national rail service told NBC News. It was unclear when the Osterreichische Bundesbahnen (OBB) would resume services that been inundated with migrants in recent days.

On Sunday, Germany’s Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maiziere, announced the resumption of border controls with Austria “to contain the current influx into Germany and resume orderly procedures for entering the country.”

A day after Hungary sealed its border with Serbia, small groups of migrants continued to sneak into the country. Police also began arresting people trying to breach the razor-wire barrier erected between the countries.

Hungarian prosecutors also put four Iraqis on trial for “the crime of crossing the border illegally." They are the first migrants to go to court on the under new laws that took effect Tuesday.

Frustrated with the barrier, some left to find other routes into the European Union. About 150 people crossed into Tovarnik, a small town in Croatia. They were bused to the Serbian border town of Sid on an all-night ride from Macedonia.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic criticized Hungary's decision to seal its border with Serbia for migrants and said Croatia will not do the same.

"We are ready to accept and direct those people," he told the country's Parliament. "They will be able to pass through Croatia and we are working intensively to enable that."

Facebook groups have sprung up, advising migrants on how to avoid Hungary on their journey to western Europe. The Dear Refugees, Welcome to Croatia group gives advice about what documents to have, while the Avoid Hungary group provided maps showing alternative routes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday called for a special EU refugee summit. She urged unity after an angry reaction to a suggestion by one of her ministers that states that did not take in their share of asylum seekers could face financial penalties.

Her government has forecast that 800,000 refugees would arrive in Germany this year, although some politicians say there could be as many as 1 million.

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