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croatia refugee crisis

Croatian conservatives have declared victory in the country’sparliamentary elections, but face a challenge to form a government.

Partial results show the HDZ party is to win about 60 seats, with more than 50 for the ruling alliance led by the Social Democrats.

The conservatives are now expected to enter talks to form a coalition.

Refugee crisis was one of the main issues. More than 320,000 refugees have passed through Croatia this year.

“The victory brought us responsibility to lead our country, which is in a difficult situation,” HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko told supporters.

“Whoever wants to fight with us for the quality of life in Croatia is welcome.”

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

The big winner looks to be the third force in the election – an alliance of independent candidates known as Most (Bridge), which is expected to claim about 19 seats.

However, Most said before the vote it would not join either main coalition.

The two alliances have promised different approaches on how to handle the arrival of more refugees and migrants.

Croatia has become a transit hub for refugees, many from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, who want to travel north.

Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said this week that 320,000 refugees had passed through the country so far this year.

The cost of managing the arrivals was close to 2 million kuna ($284,000) a day, he said.

Numbers increased when Hungary shut its border with Serbia, forcing more people to seek an alternative route north through Croatia.

Croatian PM Zoran Milanovic and his Social Democrats (SDP) won approval for their compassionate handling of the refugee crisis.

Tomislav Karamarko has suggested using troops and fences to reduce the number of arrivals.

The election was Croatia’s first since it joined the EU in 2013.


At least 10,000 refugees have arrived in Austria on September 19, amid bitter rows among EU nations on how to handle the growing crisis.

The refugees had been sent from Croatia into Hungary, which in turn shipped them on to Austria.

Hungary accused Croatia of breaking the rules by failing to register the refugees.

Meanwhile, 26 refugees are missing after their boat sank off Greece.

Coastguards managed to rescue 20 people but were told the boat had been carrying 46 people when it sank off the Greek island of Lesbos.Refugees enter Austria 2015

Separately, a search is continuing for 13 people still missing after their boat sank in the same waters on September 19, killing a five-year-old girl.

On the same day, Austrian police said they were expecting at least 10,000 arrivals, while the head of the Austrian Red Cross, Gerry Foitik, later told Austria Presse Agentur (APA) that between 12,000 to 13,000 people had entered the country over the course of the day.

The deputy police chief of Austria’s Burgenland state, Christian Stella, told APA that Hungary had not given enough warning.

Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner accused neighboring countries of failing to follow EU rules, expressing concern that migrants were also arriving from Croatia via Slovenia.

One refugee, who crossed into the Austrian town of Heiligenkreuz from Hungary, told the Associated Press: “I feel like I’ve been born anew. It makes no difference whether I am delayed, whether I stay here two days. The important thing is that I’ve finally arrived and that I am now finally safe.”

Croatia has seen 20,000 refugees entering from Serbia since September 16 and, after initially welcoming them, said it was unable to cope and moved them on.

PM Zoran Milanovic admitted there was no agreement with Hungary.

“We forced them, by sending people up there. And we’ll keep doing it,” he said.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto branded Zoran Milanovic “pathetic”, adding: “Instead of honestly making provision for the immigrants, it sent them straight to Hungary. What kind of European solidarity is this?”

The Hungarian government accused Croatia of breaching international law by failing to register refugees and said all asylum seekers would be registered in Hungary before they could leave for northern Europe.

However, a number of refugees who reached Austria via Hungary ssaid they had not been registered in Hungary either, simply driven in buses across the country and told to walk over a railway line into Austria.

While Hungary continues to transport refugees arriving from Croatia, it is building a razor-wire fence on the border that will be completed soon.

Hungary says it will then enforce the same tough laws it introduced earlier this week on its Serbian border – where there is a similar fence – making crossing it a criminal offence.

However, government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said that “at the moment” stopping the flow “seems to be impractical”.


Croatia has decided to close seven of its eight road border crossings with Serbia following a huge influx of refugees.

Croatian officials said they had no choice after more than 13,000 people entered the country since Hungary fenced off its border with Serbia earlier this week.

Many refugees have been taken by bus to reception centers but some say they plan to walk to neighboring Slovenia.

Huge numbers of people heading north from the Mediterranean have created a political crisis in the EU.

Croatian officials said roads leading to the border crossings had also been shut.

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Photo AFP/Getty Images

The crossing on the main road linking Belgrade and Zagreb – at Bajakovo – appeared to be the only one left open.

On September 17, Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said his country was “absolutely full”.

Ranko Ostojic said his message to the refugees was: “Don’t come here anymore. Stay in refugee centers in Serbia and Macedonia and Greece. This is not the road to Europe. Buses can’t take you there. It’s a lie.”

However, a Reuters journalist at the scene reported that refugees were walking through fields to bypass one of the border crossings.

Scuffles broke out in two locations on the border with Serbia on September 17 after people were left waiting for hours for transport further north.

Crowds briefly broke through police lines at Tovarnik and Batina – two of the crossings now closed.

Buses arrived just before midnight but not enough to transport everyone. Drivers said people were being taken to a reception centre.

Many refugees appear to have slipped away to continue their journey north on foot.