ZAGREB, Croatia – Thousands of refugees have begun pouring into Croatia, setting up a new path toward Western Europe after Hungary used tear gas and water cannons to keep them out of its territory.
Croatian police said Thursday morning that some 5,650 refugees have come into the country since the first groups started arriving early on Wednesday. Authorities have been using trains and buses to transfer them to refugee centers in the capital, Zagreb, and elsewhere.
Authorities say they are forming a special body to deal with the influx. Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said the country has the situation under control. But he warned that "if huge waves start coming through Serbia we must consider different moves."
Croatia represents a longer and more arduous route into Europe for the asylum-seekers from Syria and elsewhere who have been fleeing into Europe in the past months. But they have little choice after Hungary sealed off its southern border with Serbia on Tuesday and began arresting anyone caught trying to enter the country illegally.
Clashes between refugees and Hungarian riot police broke out Wednesday afternoon after people frustrated at being blocked from the country pushed open a gate at the border. Baton-wielding police responded with tear gas and water cannons, and refugees threw rocks and other objects at the police. Dozens of people were injured.
Overnight, Hungarian authorities positioned barbed wire and a new gate at the border where the clashes occurred, which was at one of two border crossings near the Serbian village of Horgos.
Early Thursday hundreds of refugees remained at the two border crossings, but their numbers dwindled as many of them headed toward the Croatian border. Serbian state TV reported that 70 buses transported people overnight to the border with Croatia.
Meanwhile, in Paris, French authorities evacuated more than 500 Syrian and other refugees from tent camps and moved them to special housing as the country steps up efforts to deal with Europe's refugee wave.
City social workers and charity workers woke the refugees before dawn, and they gathered their belongings calmly, watched over by police. The operations took place at a large camp near the Gare d'Austerlitz train station in southeastern Paris, and another in the 18th arrondissement in the north of the city.