PM: Balkan route closed without any tension

The Balkan migrant route was closed without any tension and today we are at zero, which is positive for Croatia and the region and is more humane for refugees, Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic said on Wednesday addressing a press conference after countries on that route began to apply tighter measures based on an agreement in Brussels.

Slovenia has activated Schengen rules which means that any migrant who does not request asylum will not be allowed to pass through Slovenia and this has created a domino effect from Croatia via Serbia to Macedonia, the Croatian PM told the press conference in Zagreb.

"Today, we are at zero," he said referring to the number of migrants passing through Croatia. "This is a positive result for Croatia and our neighbours."

The Balkan migrant route, through which more than a million migrants entered Europe over the past few months, was closed at midnight Tuesday and countries along that route will only let through migrants who are seeking asylum or have valid documents.

"All this has occurred without any tension or challenges, thanks to the super cooperation and excellent coordination between countries on the Balkan route," Oreskovic said.

He underscored that he was pleased to hear Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar say in Brussels that the good cooperation had been recognised.

Oreskovic recalled that at the summit in Brussels on Monday, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia recommended adopting the statement "the Balkan route has been closed," and that even though it was eventually watered down to "irregular migrant flow along the Balkan Route comes to an end," he believed that the aim was fulfilled and the message from Brussels was clear.

What is important is that "illegal migrants will not pass along that route anymore," he said and added that that was a message that would contribute to reducing the number of refugees in Greece.

Reporters wanted to know what would happen in case of other possible scenarios, such as migrants breaking through the border and finding new routes, with new human tragedies happening, to which Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic, who participated in the press conference together with PM Oreskovic, said that those problems had been foreseen.

"Those scenarios have been foreseen and we have foreseen certain forces that will handle them," Orepic said and assessed that even though it did not appear that way, the new approach was in fact more humane than people smuggling.

Oreskovic agreed and said that if the EU and NATO destroyed the people smuggling model with Turkey's help, it would help those people.

Asked what was to happen to the 30,000 refugees in Greece, the two officials said that the EU would assist Macedonia and Greece.

According to Orepic, Croatia is part of the overall solution and what is happening in Macedonia is a possible real problem that will be resolved with time.

"The essence is to firmly hold the border, the border regime that will be implemented - I am referring to regular border crossings - and there are forces ready to deal with any possible extraordinary situation," Orepic said.

Turkey is prepared to take over a huge responsibility and have some of those refugees returned to that country whereas others would be distributed in line with an agreement with the EU, he added.

Asked to comment on information that Croatia could be the next Lampedusa and that refugees might start disembarking on Croatian islands, Orepic said that there was no basis for such reports.

Last update: Wed, 09/03/2016 - 19:51
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