Migrants' New Peril: Winter Is Coming

Border closings in Balkans will only make the situation worse
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2015 8:12 AM CDT
Children take shelter from the rain in Sredisce ob Dravi, a border crossing between Croatia and Slovenia, on Monday.   (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
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(Newser) – Governments across the Balkans are scrambling to locate empty buildings, while aid workers are boosting their stashes of coats, blankets, and tents in anticipation of a backlog of migrants who may soon be facing a treacherous winter as they work their way toward friendly Western European countries, the New York Times reports. But while the mercury hasn't yet dipped below freezing—the paper notes the coldest it's been in Croatia so far is 42 degrees—temps are forecast to drop this week. "For now, it is OK," the manager of a new processing center near the Serbia-Croatia border tells the Times. "But in 20 days or so, it is going to be very cold here." A spokesman for the UN's refugee agency adds, "The fear of borders closing and winter approaching is just making for a rush, rush, rush."

The problem has been exacerbated by an increasing number of border closings: Last month Hungary shut its border with Serbia, forcing migrants further west and into Hungary through Croatia. But Hungary closed its border with Croatia early Saturday, sending migrants on an even longer journey through Slovenia. Slovenia has agreed to act as the middleman, shuttling migrants from Croatia to Austria, but there's a numbers problem: Slovenia says it can handle about 2,500 migrants per day, but Croatia wants that number upped to 5,000; Austria says its system can't take in more than 1,500 per day. In the meantime, migrants are already experiencing unpleasant conditions that are only likely to worsen. "The weather is so cold that I can't even leave the tent," a Syrian migrant at a German camp tells Reuters. Another Syrian migrant in a Serbo-Croatian border camp adds to the Times, "I am scared, everybody is scared."

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