As It Happens

Croatia to refugees: 'Don't come here anymore'

Croatia's ambassador to Canada says the country has been overwhelmed by more than 15,000 refugees. He says the country has reached its limit.
Croatia's ambassador to Canada / Migrants walk from Serbia towards Tovarnik, Croatia, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (AP photo)

After thousands of refugees were turned away by Hungary, many pinned their hopes on reaching Croatia. But today, that welcome mat was yanked away. 

Croatia's interior minister told refugees, "Don't come here any more."

That's in stark contrast to Wednesday, when the Croatian government announced its border was open -- prompting thousands to make the long trek across Serbia to try to reach the EU.

Asked by As It Happens co-host Carol Off why the Croatian government reversed its decision to welcome refugees, Croatian ambassador to Canada Veselko Grubisic said:

"We want to make sure that our system doesn't collapse. We are trying to feed these people. We are trying to escort them...we can not take so many at once."

Grubisic said his government intended to act as a transit zone, to allow refugees to move on to Western Europe. Now that the Hungarian and Slovenian governments are blocking refugees, he says Croatia can not accommodate them all. 

"If there is a corridor that transports migrants toward other countries then it's a different story, he says. "But we cannot handle more."

Grubisic says his country is willing to do its share, but says Croatia has been in recession for the last five years and is struggling with a 17 per cent unemployment rate. 

Meanwhile, more than 15,000 refugees are stuck inside Croatia, unable to travel to Hungary, or be accepted by Slovenia. But Grubisic is clear: the refugees cannot stay.

"Croatia is not going to become a hotspot for migrants," he says.


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