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Croatian and Slovenian authorities must urgently come up with effective solutions as hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers who were stranded overnight between the two countries’ border checkpoints are soon to be joined by thousands more, Amnesty International urged today. 

An Amnesty International research team on the scene interviewed multiple refugees who described how Croatian police had ushered around 1,800 people on a 12 km trudge from Čakovec train station to the border crossing at Trnovec at around 2:30am, after Slovenian authorities had blocked the train from entering Slovenia. 

Hundreds of children including babies as young as a month old were among the group, who walked or were carried in the rain. They reached the border crossing around two hours later, only to find it blocked by a fence and Slovenian police. Croatian police promptly erected a temporary fence behind the group, effectively trapping them between the two countries with no shelter or humanitarian assistance. 

“It is simply unacceptable for Croatia, Slovenia and other countries along the route to wash their hands of any responsibility towards refugees and asylum seekers while the systems in place to offer them protection are ineffective. The fact is that European leaders have known full well for months that a situation like this could arise, but have still failed to prevent it by putting in place available support mechanisms,” said Barbora Černušáková, Researcher at Amnesty International, who is currently on the Croatia-Slovenia border.

“Croatian police tried to justify their actions by telling us ‘everybody is doing it – look at Hungary’. This attitude is appalling and dangerous. If EU member states race to the bottom in terms of how they deal with the refugee crisis it could spark a domino effect with drastic consequences for thousands of people arriving daily.

EU countries must work together to come up with manageable solutions that respect the rights and dignity of refugees and asylum seekers.”

Today the Slovenian police began to slowly let people into the country, with families and children given top priority. But thousands more are believed to be making their way northwards through Croatia towards the Slovenian border, so an effective solution is needed urgently. 

Amnesty International’s team is on the ground will monitor developments and is available for interviews.

For more information, see Amnesty International’s Agenda for Refugee Protection in Europe:
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/09/europe-drastic-change-in-response-needed-to-tackle-refugee-crisis/