Thu, Sep 17, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Migrants seek new ways to EU after route closed

Reuters, SID, Serbia

Syrian refugees and migrants gather near the highway on Tuesday on their way to the border between Turkey and Bulgaria in the northwestern Turkish city of Edirne.

Photo: AFP

Migrants walked through cornfields into the EU through Serbia’s western border with Croatia yesterday, opening a new front in the continent’s migration crisis after Hungary shut the main overland route.

Croatia said it was urgently sending demining experts to the border area to identify minefields left on the frontier from the Balkan wars of the 1990s, the last time hundreds of thousands of displaced people marched across Europe.

Hungary’s decision to shut the EU’s external border with Serbia this week was the most forceful attempt yet by a European country to close off the unprecedented flow of refugees and economic migrants overwhelming the bloc.

The route through Hungary has been the main one used by migrants who arrive first by dinghy in Greece and then trek across the Balkan peninsula to reach the EU’s frontier-free Schengen zone, most eventually bound for Germany.

With that route closed, thousands of migrants remain in the Balkans seeking other paths north and west, possibly through Croatia and Romania, both of which are in the EU, but not in Schengen.

Reporters saw hundreds of people, some of whom identified themselves as Iraqis, trek through fields near the official Sid border crossing between Serbia and Croatia, a fellow former Yugoslav republic that joined the EU in 2013.

They arrived by bus from the southern Serbian town of Presevo, rerouted late on Tuesday to the Croatian border after the Hungarian border was closed.

Serbian media reported that at least 10 migrant buses bound for Sid had left Presevo overnight.

A television crew saw three arrive, one a double-decker that offloaded its passengers within a few hundred meters of the border.

Hungary has thrown up a 3.5m high fence along the length of its border with Serbia.

Engineers and soldiers were marking out a path yesterday to extend the fence along the border with Romania, a plan that has angered Bucharest.

The biggest flow of immigrants into Western Europe since World War II has sown discord across the continent, fueling the rise of far right political parties and jeopardizing the 20-year-old achievement of Schengen’s border-free travel.

Hungary says it is simply enforcing EU rules by sealing the Schengen zone’s external border.

It says Serbia is a safe country, so asylum seekers who reach the frontier there can be automatically turned back in a process that should take hours.

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