Migrants, Refugees, Tear Gas, Pepper Spray, and a Humane Croatian Response

Total Croatia News

Migrants or refugees, and congratulations to the Croatian government and nation on such a humane response.

I am a migrant. And an immigrant. Neither label is shameful. 

Before emigrating finally to Croatia in 2002, I migrated to places such as Rwanda, Somalia, Russia and Georgia in search of work as an aid worker. I have been an immigrant in Russia, Germany, Japan and Kenya, before finally settling in Croatia.

Of course, coming from the UK, I have a much more privileged position than someone from a bombed out shell in Aleppo, a point the Internet trolls enjoy pointing out. With the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, and with almost 30,000 people crossing into Croatia in five days, I do find it somewhat ironic that with half a million on the move this year escaping war or seeking a better economic situation, according to local reports only one woman and her children have chosen to seek asylum in Croatia. Maybe I am missing something with my decision to move here…

Migrant or refugee? For some the most important part of the crisis seems to be assigning the correct name to those on the move. The BBC attracted a lot of criticism for referring to those travelling as ‘migrants’, a decision it explains at the foot of each article on the topic:

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

With an estimated 60% of refugees, migrants not from Syria, there are some fleeing other conflicts, others seeing an opportunity for economic migration for a better life. Perhaps the term ‘refugees and migrants’ would be more accurate, but it is too cumbersome. Migrants works for me, other writers here prefer the term refugees, which is why you will see a mixture of the two. 

A little more important than a debate about semantics, at least in my opinion, is what is happening on the ground, and the fear factor of scare-mongering. The Islamisation of Europe is around the corner, if some people are to be believed, and yet if Europe was to incorporate every refugee from Syria and assume they were all Muslim (they are not), the Muslim population of Europe would rise from 4% to 5%. The video below puts a few stereotypes to bed.


And how has Croatia reacted?  

Tear gas in Hungary, pepper spray in Slovenia, humanity in Croatia. We are an apolitical site, but I would like to congratulate Zoran Milanovic and Ranko Ostojic and their team for their handling of the crisis thus far. The circumstances are extraordinary, and they are changing daily. Merkel and Munich gave an unforgettable welcome, but who would have predicted border controls with Austria just a few days later? After initially blocking migrants from moving on from Keleti station in Budapest,  an imposing fence and closed borders, backed with tear gas in Hungary sent migrants south to the next possible entry point – Croatia.

In the absence of a coordinated EU response or policy – the biggest shame of this entire crisis – it was left to a small country to deal with the next steps. With the President calling for the army to be mobilised to protect the borders from illegal immigrants, Croatia – both its government and people – responded with humanity. A proposed corridor through Slovenia was rejected by the Slovenes. With the isolationist policy of Hungary to the north, Croatia could have responded in the same way, or opened its borders and risked an influx with the risk that tens of thousands would become stranded in the country with onward routes blocked. 

The response of the people of Croatia – no strangers to the horror of escaping war – has been magnificent, as has the government’s response and handling of the crisis. Migrants are now arriving in Austria via both Hungary and Slovenia, who are now talking about that corridor. 

Was everything done according to the book? Perhaps not, but these are extraordinary times. For those who criticise Croatia for procedural irregularities and other misdemeanours, I encourage you to redirect your complaints to the decision makers of the EU. This is no time for the head in the sand, delegating the problem to frontline states like Greece, Italy and Croatia by de facto inertia.

Congratulations Croatia on stepping up to the plate when it mattered most. I am genuinely surprised that I am one of only a relative handful of immigrants in this country, despite all its faults. 



Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment