By Mladen Lakic, Maja Zivanovic and Anja Vladisavljevic
Croatian police said false information that the EU country would open its borders led to hundreds of migrants and refugees gathering at border crossings in Serbia and Bosnia, hoping to enter Croatia.
Some 400 migrants and refugees gathered on Tuesday on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s border with Croatia, with a similar number massing on Serbia’s border with Croatia, local media reported.
Croatian police announced that misinformation had been spread that the EU state would open its borders.
“Among the migrant populations on the territory of Bosnia and Serbia, false information is spreading that the Republic of Croatia will allow their entry into its territory as well as further passage to the countries of Western Europe,” a police statement said.
Local police and members of Bosnia’s border force were deployed to the Maljevac border crossing in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, where several hundred migrants and refugees hoped to cross over into Croatia, but the situation remained calm with no incidents reported.
A few hundred also gathered at the Batrovci border crossing between Serbia and Croatia, near the town of Sid, also hoping to get into the EU country.
According to Serbian media, the migrants and refugees came from the Adasevci and Principovci camps.
Later reports from local media suggested that some migrants and refugees have already been returning to the camps.
On Monday night, a group of some 100 migrants and refugees arrived at Bosnia’s Izacic border crossing and spent all night in the open, but they have since been returned to migrant centres in Bihac and Velika Kladusa, Sanela Dujkovic, a spokeswoman for the Bosnian Border police told local media.
Some expressed disappointment that they were not allowed to continue their journey into the EU.
“We are waiting and praying that the border will open. We do not want to go back,” one of them, Nagris, told BIRN.
According to estimates from the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the number of refugees and migrants in Serbia in October was about 3,900, of whom about 3,400 were housed in state-owned asylum centres and reception centres, including around 200 accommodated in tents in Principovac and Adasevci.
Data from the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights suggested that there are also about 500 people at informal sites, mostly in the Belgrade area and in the border zones.
Most however are being housed at a reception centre in Obrenovac and an asylum centre in Krnjaca in Belgrade.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina from the beginning of the year to October 17, just over 18,000 migrants and refugees were registered on the new so-called ‘Balkan route’, which passes through Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and in some instances Serbia.
A total of 6,411 of the migrants came from Pakistan. Others came from Iran (2,944), Syria (2,533), Afghanistan (2,962) and Iraq (1,675), the Bosnian Service for Foreign Affairs told BIRN.