Croatian President Visits Opatovac Refugee Reception Centre

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The latest from the migrant crisis.

Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović visited yesterday Bapska, the town through which the largest number of refugees is entering Croatia, as well as the refugee reception centre in Opatovac where she talked with interior minister Ranko Ostojić, reports Vecernji List on October 12, 2015.

During a short conversation with refugees, the president wanted to know where did they come from, where they want to go and where are their other family members. She talked with the volunteers at the unofficial border crossing whom she asked “why the families are not with migrants and how will they move from Afghanistan to Germany”. During the visit to Bapska and Opatovac, the president talked with police officers engaged in the field, inquiring about their working conditions and if there is any cooperation with Serbian police. She was curious about demographic structure of the refugees and whether the police is ready if the refugee wave turns in the opposite direction.

“When you see all this human misery which is coming to our borders you cannot but feel deep sorrow. Regardless of the reasons why they are coming here. I must thank all police officers, members of armed forces and volunteers who are trying to make living conditions for these people as humane as possible”, said the president, pointing out that she expects the refugee wave to be reduced during the winter, but that the whole problem could be long-term.

“There was only one family who said they were from Syria. Most people are from Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are all going to Germany. Most of them are migrants and have economic reasons. We may feel sad for them, but the fact is that neither the EU nor Croatia can accept everybody who is living in poverty and misery in the world. We need to do everything to channel this wave. I am afraid what will happen when their destination countries, like Germany and Austria, decide they will no longer receive them. How we will then react and deal with the people who will then be dissatisfied. What happens if they start coming back via the same routes. I appeal to everybody to be wise and to think long-term”, warned the president who said that the resolution for the problem should be found at the EU level. “We need strict controls at the Greek-Turkish border, and we should invest in camps in Turkey and deal with the causes of the crisis, not only with wars, but with the elimination of poverty through aid.”

President reiterated that it was necessary to cooperate with neighbors. “We need to cooperate with Serbia, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and other countries. We must make the effort to control our own borders, so that things do not get out of control. We cannot transfer the responsibility. All refugees are going to Hungary, so if we want to cooperate with Hungarians we need to talk with them”, said the president, denying that she came to visit the camp in Opatovac because she was criticized by interior minister Ostojić. “I have decided to come today because later I will be abroad. I was here within 48 hours of the start of the refugee crisis, but the camp did not exist then. I heard some criticism why I went to Hungary. The fact is that the police must do their job. I believe the cooperation with neighboring countries is missing”, said the president.

Since the beginning of the refugee crisis, 157,858 refugees and migrants have entered Croatia. In the last few days, there has been an increasing influx from Serbia. A few days ago Macedonia reported that it had been receiving a record influx of about 10,000 refugees per day. It is believed that the main reason for the larger influx is the fear due to the possible closure of the refugee route between Turkey and Greece, as well as colder weather during the coming winter months. In the last two days, eastern Croatia has seen rainy weather and temperatures have dropped sharply, but all this has not stopped the refugees on their path to the EU.


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