ZAGREB, Croatia – Croatian authorities closed all of the country's border crossings with Serbia except for one Friday after straining to cope with 11,000 migrants and refugees who have entered the country after Hungary closed off its border.
Huge numbers of people surged into Croatia after Hungary erected a barbed wire-fence and took other tough measures to stop them from using it as a gateway into Western Europe. Croatia represents a longer and more difficult route into Europe, but those fleeing violence in their homelands had little choice.
Many of the migrants are Syrians and Iraqis fleeing war, who are seeking safety and prosperity in Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe.
Serbian officials, fearing the closure in Croatia would block thousands of migrants inside the country, protested Zagreb's move. Aleksandar Vulin, Serbia's social affairs minister, said Serbia will take Croatia to international courts if the international border crossings remain closed.
Hundreds remained stranded on the Serbian border crossing with Hungary after Hungary sealed its borders, unable or too afraid to make the uncertain trek through Croatia.
Meanwhile, Slovenia — the next country on the migrant route to Western Europe — has been returning migrants to Croatia and has stopped all rail traffic between the two countries.
As the sun rose on Friday, refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan woke up to a new day with no hope in sight.
"Returning back to our country is impossible, because we have no financial means or the moral strength to go back home," said Abu Mohamed who fled Idlib in Syria, leaving his wife and children behind in the hopes of making it to Europe.
He said Europeans have nothing to fear from people like himself.
"We are coming with our modest Islamic perspectives. Terrorism remains back home, terrorism is not coming with us," he said. "We were the victims and oppressed back home in our societies."