Croatia has decided to close seven of its eight road border crossings with Serbia following a huge influx of refugees.
Croatian officials said they had no choice after more than 13,000 people entered the country since Hungary fenced off its border with Serbia earlier this week.
Many refugees have been taken by bus to reception centers but some say they plan to walk to neighboring Slovenia.
Huge numbers of people heading north from the Mediterranean have created a political crisis in the EU.
Croatian officials said roads leading to the border crossings had also been shut.
Photo AFP/Getty Images
The crossing on the main road linking Belgrade and Zagreb – at Bajakovo – appeared to be the only one left open.
On September 17, Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said his country was “absolutely full”.
Ranko Ostojic said his message to the refugees was: “Don’t come here anymore. Stay in refugee centers in Serbia and Macedonia and Greece. This is not the road to Europe. Buses can’t take you there. It’s a lie.”
However, a Reuters journalist at the scene reported that refugees were walking through fields to bypass one of the border crossings.
Scuffles broke out in two locations on the border with Serbia on September 17 after people were left waiting for hours for transport further north.
Crowds briefly broke through police lines at Tovarnik and Batina – two of the crossings now closed.
Buses arrived just before midnight but not enough to transport everyone. Drivers said people were being taken to a reception centre.
Many refugees appear to have slipped away to continue their journey north on foot.
Thousands of refugees pushed through the Croatian riot police lines in the town of Tovarnik at the Serbian border.
Refugees waiting for hours in blazing heat grew frustrated, though the situation is quieter now.
Croatia is struggling to deal with at least 7,300 arrivals since September 16 after Hungary closed its border with Serbia, blocking the previous route into the EU.
European Union leaders will hold an emergency summit next week to discuss the crisis.
Croatian officials say refugees must apply for asylum there or be treated as illegal immigrants.
Authorities seem to be overwhelmed and surprised by the number of refugees – most of whom wish to travel on to other EU countries – and the Croatian interior minister has said the country is “absolutely full”.
Correspondents described the scenes in Tovarnik as mayhem, after several thousand refugees who had crossed from Serbia were held back by riot police, trying to get them to wait for transport on from the border.
Croatian police eventually gave way under pressure. Some of the refugees said they intended to walk to Slovenia.
Many are exhausted with supplies of food and water running low.
Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic has asked the army to be ready to protect the country’s borders from “the illegal migration”, state news agency Hina reported.
Hungarian media reported that dozens of refugees were crossing from Croatia into Hungary at Illocska – thus avoiding the fence on Hungary’s border with Serbia.
Croatia said it would allow migrants to travel into northern Europe, but officials in Slovenia – which borders Croatia to the north – have said they would tighten their border security and would stick to rules which require asylum-seekers to register on arrival.
Slovenia, like Hungary, is an entry point to the Schengen zone, which normally allows people to travel between member countries without restrictions.
On September 16, hundreds of refugees were involved in clashes at the Hungary-Serbia border after Hungarian authorities used water cannon and tear gas to stop migrants forcing their way through.
Zeid Raad al-Hussein, a UN top human rights official, said the images from the Hungarian border were “truly shocking”.