The Latest: More than 5,000 migrants in Croatia refugee camp

AP News
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Posted: Oct 18, 2015 4:17 PM
The Latest: More than 5,000 migrants in Croatia refugee camp

OPATOVAC, Croatia (AP) — The latest news as migrants fleeing war or seeking a better life make their way across Europe by the tens of thousands. All times local.

10:15 p.m.

More than 5,000 migrants are stuck in a refugee camp in Croatia waiting to move on to tiny Slovenia, which is taking in limited numbers of people per day slowing down the flow of people toward Western Europe.

Croatian police said Sunday that nearly 200,000 migrants have entered the country since mid-September. They say 5,132 people are currently at the migrant camp in Opatovac near the border with Serbia.

Croatia has been struggling to manage the influx after Hungary closed its border, rerouting migrants toward Slovenia. Thousands have been stranded in both Croatia and Serbia.

Slovenia has rejected a bid by Croatia to send 1,800 migrants on a train after 2,100 people already had entered the country on Sunday.

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9:55 p.m.

Slovenia says it won't allow entry to about 1,800 migrants on a train from Croatia after more than 2,000 people have already entered in one day.

Authorities say they have turned down a request from Croatia to send the train carrying the migrants from the border with Serbia. Police say 2,100 people entered on Sunday which is close to the limit the small Alpine nation can handle per day.

The train packed with migrants left the town of Tovarnik on Sunday afternoon as men, women and children cheered in joy. The migrants had boarded the train hours earlier but were stuck at Tovarnik railway station as Croatian authorities waited for Slovenia to give a green light for its departure.

Slovenian media say the migrants will be allowed into the country on Monday.

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5:40 p.m.

The youth wing of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc is calling for a limit on the number of asylum seekers Germany can take in — contradicting the line taken by party leaders.

Merkel faces increasing pressure to limit the influx of thousands of refugees a day to Germany, but has argued that it makes no sense to declare any fixed limit and that border fences wouldn't keep refugees out. She says the key to solving the crisis is tackling the causes of the flow of migrants.

That isn't popular with all her supporters. The conservatives' youth bloc, the Young Union, called at a conference Sunday for an upper limit for asylum seekers which chairman Paul Ziemiak said should be set in consultation with groups providing help to refugees.

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4:55 p.m.

Slovenia says it can't accept 5,000 migrants per day as asked by Croatia, which is likely to cause a further backlog in the flow of people hoping to reach Western Europe.

Interior Ministry official Bostjan Sefic said Sunday that Slovenia can't take more than neighboring Austria, which said it can accept 1,500 per day.

Sefic says "if we would accept 5,000 migrants per day that would mean 35,000 would be in Slovenia in 10 days" — taking into account those who leave for Austria. Sefic says "that would be unacceptable."

The migrant flow changed direction to Slovenia after Hungary closed its border with Croatia. Slovenia's bid to limit the flow has slowed down the movement, leaving thousands of migrants stranded in Croatia and Serbia.

Croatian police have blocked hundreds of migrants trying to cross from Serbia.

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4:25 p.m.

Croatian police have blocked hundreds of migrants seeking to cross from Serbia, anxious to continue their journey toward Western Europe which has stalled with a new route that opened through Slovenia after Hungary sealed a crossing point on the border with Croatia.

Migrants faced Croatian police Sunday in a corn field at the border between Serbia and Croatia where they have been crossing since mid-September. Tensions rose as the Croatian police deployed along the boundary to stop them.

Another group were roaming in a nearby field in a bid to cross.

The flow of migrants through the Balkans toward Western Europe has slowed down significantly as Slovenia agreed to accept only about 2,500 people a day, far less than the number of migrants arriving from Croatia. Croatia has then blocked migrants from Serbia.

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2:30 p.m.

A Czech aid volunteer says some 2,000 migrants waiting to cross from Serbia to Croatia are exhausted and lacking supplies.

Jan Pinos, from a Czech volunteer group helping migrants, has compared the crowded border crossing between the two Balkan countries to a "dam on the river."

Thousands were stranded in Serbia and Croatia Sunday after Hungary closed its border with Croatia pushing the flow to a much slower route via Slovenia.

Pinos says "the new system ... the new flow of the river of refugees through Slovenia does not work yet." He adds "the capacity of this new journey is not enough."

Slovenia has said it will only take in 2,500 people a day, leaving many waiting to move on. Pinos says refugees "have been waiting here for many hours and they are exhausted."

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12:55 p.m.

Bishops from the Church of England are urging the government to accept more Syrian refugees, arguing that Britain's response to the crisis has been inadequate.

More than 80 bishops have written to Prime Minister David Cameron calling for the country to accept as many as 50,000 refugees — 30,000 more than already pledged.

They wrote that "it would be a meaningful and substantial response to the scale of human suffering we see daily."

The bishops sent the letter to Cameron in September, but released it publicly after failing to receive what they described as an adequate response.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon on Sunday defended the government's actions on Syria, telling the BBC's Andrew Marr program it had spent more than $1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) to support refugees in camps near Syria.

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12:30 p.m.

The head of a union representing German police says he favors building a fence on the country's border, something that Chancellor Angela Merkel has said repeatedly wouldn't work.

Rainer Wendt, head of the German Police Union, was quoted Sunday as telling the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that "if we want to conduct serious border controls, we must build a fence along the German border. I am in favor of our doing this."

Wendt argued that if Germany closed its border with a fence, Austria would close its border with Slovenia and said "we need precisely this effect."

Merkel's government faces increasing pressure to limit the influx of migrants as Germany struggles to house newcomers. Wendt argued that "someone must pull the emergency brake now — that can only be Angela Merkel."

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12:20 p.m.

Hungarian officials say no migrants have breached the fence Hungary has built on its border with Croatia on the first day since the border was closed.

Hungary decided to shut its border with Croatia to the free flow of migrants on Saturday, after erecting a fence protected by coils of razor wire, police and soldiers on long stretches of the boundary between the two countries. Hungary finished a similar fence its border with Serbia last month.

To avoid Hungary, migrants are now being sent by Croatia to Slovenia, from where they continue their journey toward Germany and other European Union countries.

Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said that despite the lack of migrants entering Hungary, "we know exactly that in the background the number of illegal migrants has not diminished, there is constant pressure on the European borders."

Over 390,000 migrants have entered Hungary this year.

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11:50 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting Turkish leaders to promote an EU plan that would offer aid and concessions to Turkey in exchange for measures to stem the mass movement of migrants into Europe.

Merkel arrived in Istanbul on Sunday as thousands of new arrivals a day are stretching Germany's capacity to house refugees and other migrants.

Officials said the incentives offered to Turkey would involve an aid package of at least 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) to help Turkey host the more than 2 million refugees that are in the country, as well as easier access to EU visas for Turkish citizens and re-energized EU membership talks.

Apart from the migrant crisis, the Turkish and German leaders will also discuss the fight against terrorism and the situation in Syria.

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11:35 a.m.

A spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency is warning Hungary's decision to close its border for migrants has increased their suffering and could lead to a backlog down the route.

Babar Baloch, regional spokesman for Central Europe for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, says the new migrant route through Slovenia has significantly prolonged their already weeks-long journey toward Western Europe.

Baloch says some 4,000 migrants have arrived in Slovenia since Hungary shut down the border on midnight Friday. Thousands more were stranded Sunday in Croatia and Serbia, waiting to move on.

Baloch warns "there will be challenges if the process becomes slow or we have a backlog of people."

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11:00 a.m.

Austrian police say that about 1,000 refugees and other migrants were registered on Saturday and overnight as they arrived at one of the country's main border crossings with Slovenia.

Police in Styria province said that around 500 of those arrived at the Spielfeld crossing in Austria's southeastern corner between the evening and Sunday morning, the Austria Press Agency reported. Most of the new arrivals were taken by bus to the cities of Graz and Klagenfurt.

The flow of people seeking shelter in richer European Union countries was rerouted through tiny Slovenia on Saturday after Hungary closed its border with Croatia.

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10:45 a.m.

Thousands of migrants are stranded in fog and cold weather in Serbia and Croatia after Hungary closed its border with Croatia and the flow of people was redirected to a route via Slovenia.

Slovenia has said it will only take in 2,500 people a day, significantly slowing down the movement.

Croatian police said Sunday nearly 4,000 people remained in the refugee camp in Opatovac, where some 50 buses were parked waiting to take the migrants toward Slovenia, the next step on their journey.

Across the border in Serbia, hundreds of people have been sitting in some 20 buses since early hours Sunday waiting to cross to Croatia. More are expected to arrive during the day.

The migrant route switched to Slovenia on Saturday after Hungary closed its border for the influx.