Minister says refugee situation under control

 Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said in an interview with Hina on Wednesday that Croatia had sufficient capacities for refugees in transit towards Slovenia, that Croatian citizens were not affected by the crisis and that despite suggestions from certain political circles, he was not afraid of any xenophobic mood prevailing in Croatia.

The refugee situation is stable and going according to plan. There are some delays due to the huge congestion on the Serbian border and the suspension of reception at the Slovenian border, Ostojic said. We had an agreement with NGOs to organise crossings at a pace of fifty people at a time, as many as can embark a bus and then everything functions. Everything is running smoothly in the Opatovac camp, he said and added that Croatia will open a winter transit centre in Slavonski Brod but it doesn't intend to open any additional centres as there is no need.

Over the past 34 days we have experienced a lot; I am glad that we have not had any casualties during the refugee crisis, there were no epidemic outbreaks, everything is organised as far as that is possible. Croatia will not feel the consequences of the crisis except financial and we expect that to be resolved with the EU, but what is important is that nobody's life is disrupted because of this, he said.

Asked whether a xenophobic mood might emerge particularly since some political forces in Croatia and abroad are toying with such notions, he said, "Croatia has shown its humane face. Citizens from the very start came out into the streets and shared their meals with these people. That is the best side of Croatia. Naturally there may be some people who object. We have to know that democracy comprehends that the majority rules and the majority in Croatia has no reason for fear."

We are preparing the winter transit centre mainly with our people (police and activists) in mind who are working 12-hour shifts in the cold which is twice and sometimes four times longer than refugees spend there, Ostojic said and added that the new centre would be able to cater for 1,640 people, a quota of refugees to be relocated in agreement with the EU until they are accommodated and integrated into Croatian society.

The minister said that Croatia had offered those refugees who were met "with dogs, wire and rifles on the Slovenian border" that they could be returned to reception centres. They refused and went over to the other side and in that situation you cannot expect proper transit.

We sent a request to the Slovenian side to determine a location where people will continue to enter Slovenia and they have replied that they are ready to come to a meeting. There is no time for meeting, not even for a few hours. We proposed that half the people who are arriving be transited toward Slovenia and we are prepared to keep the other half here in the camp and provide them with anything they need, medical assistance, food and accommodation and in that way things would continue to function particularly since we know that there are no limits set by Austria and Germany, he said.

He underscored, however, that the place to resolve the problem is in Greece which is a member of the EU and should be a disciplined member of the Schengen area. "Greece probably has the strongest navy, it has 400 jets, 6 frigates and what not and it would be more efficient to urge them to do their job. However, Greece is unloading 10,000 people a day, emptying its camps, relocating them, sending them toward the EU without any control and now what is happening here is the result of all that," he said.

Asked whether Croatia had enough information about the number of refugees arriving, Ostojic said that Croatia had its data base and was using internationally accessible data. We have our information for our needs, we are operating according to Dublin rules and as people are undergoing registration and after it, we can react if need be for security reasons, he said.

We have data that we are exchanging with European Frontex services and information gathered by our police forces involved in Operation "Poseidon" and we are informed of "every ferry and how many people are on it and how many people are coming."

Last update: Sat, 24/10/2015 - 19:37

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