Overwhelmed by migrants, Croatia closes border with Serbia
Updated: 2015-09-18 07:03
Croatian police stand guard in front of migrants at the train station in Tovarnik, Croatia, September 17, 2015. Amid chaotic scenes at its border with Serbia, Croatia said on Thursday it could not cope with a flood of migrants seeking a new route into the EU after Hungary kept them out by erecting a fence and using tear gas and water cannon against them. [Photo/Agencies]
Croatia's president met the army chief of staff and asked the military to be ready, if necessary, to protect national borders from illegal migration, state news agency Hina reported.
Police also took up position in a suburb of the capital Zagreb around a hotel housing hundreds of migrants, some of them on balconies shouting "Freedom! Freedom!". Others threw rolls of toilet paper from the balconies and windows.
"Croatia will not be able to receive more people," Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told reporters in Tovarnik while suggesting the country would not simply let migrants head north to Slovenia, which is part of the EU's Schengen zone of border-free travel.
Police in Hungary, which is also in Schengen, said about 500 migrants had been detained after crossing into the south of the country from Croatia. There is no fence on that part of the border at the moment but Budapest plans to build one.
European Council President Donald Tusk summoned EU leaders to a summit next Wednesday to discuss how to better manage external EU borders and help Turkey, through which many of the migrants are passing, as well as other states in the region that are housing Syrian refugees.
The bloc's interior ministers failed to agree on Monday on a mandatory quota system designed to spread the burden of this year's huge influx.
Ex-communist Central European states opposed to compulsory quotas for taking in refugees are pressing for more action to prevent migrants crossing the Greek and Italian borders who do not qualify for refugee status.