Croatian government expected to implement Plan C in the migrant crisis through Slovenia.
On Saturday, about 40 minutes after midnight, some 30 Hungarian soldiers put barbed wire across the unofficial border crossing from Croatia to Hungary at Botovo and closed it after the refugees who had arrived with the night train from Tovarnik crossed it. At the crossing, there are journalists and members of the Hungarian police and the army, some of which are in full battle gear, reports Jutarnji List and Index.hr on October 16, 2015.
Hungarian foreign minister Szijjarto said yesterday that EU leaders had failed to agree on joint efforts to protect the Greek border. It was clear that Hungary needs to protect the external borders of the Schengen Area. “Therefore, the National Security Council decided that starting from midnight Hungary will fully implement the Schengen rules on the Croatian border”, he told reporters after the council meeting. “In other words, we’ll close the green border at midnight”, he added. “The official border crossings will continue to function, but with tighter controls.” He stressed that Hungary informed Croatia, Slovenia, Poland, Slovakia, Austria and Germany about its decision and added that the migrants can apply for asylum in two transit zones to be established on the border with Croatia.
Hungary has so far received more than 378,000 migrants, and in the opinion of Hungarian government, by the end of the year the Hungarian border would have been crossed by between 600,000 and 700,000 people.
From midnight to 9 pm on Friday, 4,986 migrants entered Croatia. Currently, at the temporary refugee reception centre in Opatovac there are 756 migrants. A total of 186,093 migrants have entered Croatia since the beginning of the crisis.
It is expected that Croatia will respond to the Hungarian decision with a so-called Plan C. It has been unofficially confirmed that Plan C involves the transport of refugees to the Slovenian border. “Prime minister Zoran Milanović is in constant contact with the Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar. The Croatian government has the Plan C, which has been agreed with Slovenia. Croatia will start implementing it in consultation and constant coordination with Slovenia”, confirmed a government spokesman. Croatian interior minister Ranko Ostojić explained: “We will turn towards Slovenia, but we have to respect all the rules.” He said that according to the agreement between the Croatian and Slovenian police, the border crossings for migrants will be Macelj and Mursko Središće.
According to information from the Međimurje Police Department, the first train with refugees on the way to Slovenia is expected about noon on Saturday. The train will transport 1,800 people from the Middle East who have illegally crossed the Serbian-Croatian border and were admitted to the reception centre in Opatovac. According to available information, the refugees will be immediately transferred to Slovenia.
After closing of the Hungarian border, the only alternative for their transit to the west is Slovenia, said yesterday Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusić, adding that if Germany and Austria were to close the borders for migrants then Croatia would have to do the same. “Croatia will talk with Slovenia about how many refugees a day it can receive”, she said. “But, if Germany were to close its borders, or if Austria were to do the same, then Croatia would have to close its borders because there is no alternative”, she noted.
However, at a press conference in Slovenia, Slovenian interior and foreign ministers denied there was any agreement with Croatia concerning the refugees. “If Germany closes the border, Slovenia will reconsider its policy towards refugees. Nevertheless, we are ready for a new wave”, said foreign minister Karl Erjavec. He and his colleague Vesna Žnidar said they were not surprised by the Hungarian decision. “Our main goal is to continue to ensure safety and security in the country and safe treatment for all migrants”, added Erjavec. Both admitted they have spoken with their Croatian counterparts and discussed the points of entry to Slovenia, but nothing has been agreed in detail. Slovenian Television reported that they both denied the existence of Plan C.
However, Slovenian government is expected to today announce the details of the agreement with Croatia about transit of migrants and refugees through Slovenia. Police stations in Novo Mesto, Maribor and Murska Sobota reported this morning that the migrants had not yet come. Slovenian interior minister refused to estimate how many migrants a day Slovenia could transport to Austria and Germany, but stressed that Slovenia is ready for the latest developments.
A series of meetings related to the refugee crisis will be held today in Slovenian capital Ljubljana, the most important of which is the meeting of National Security Council, which will announce operational plans of the government. Slovenian government said it does not know anything about Plan C, but has confirmed that there are discussions with the Croatian side, including between the two prime ministers.
German government also reacted to the Hungarian decision. “Measures introduced by the Hungarian government do not resolve the issue of safe migration of refugees. There is no need for something like this. The closure of the borders destroys our attempts to establish solidarity within the EU”, said the German government.