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Crowds Of Migrants And Refugees Prompt Slovenia To Deploy Army

A policeman on horseback and other officers lead a group of refugees and migrants near Dobova, Slovenia, Tuesday. Slovenia's parliament is expected to approve a measure to have the army help police guard the border with Croatia.
Srdjan Zivulovic
Reuters /Landov
A policeman on horseback and other officers lead a group of refugees and migrants near Dobova, Slovenia, Tuesday. Slovenia's parliament is expected to approve a measure to have the army help police guard the border with Croatia.

Saying that thousands of people have overwhelmed its infrastructure at Slovenia's border with Croatia, Slovenia is moving to deploy its army. More than 6,000 people arrived Tuesday, Slovenia's interior minister says, with more than 18,000 reaching Slovenia since Friday.

Describing a situation in which Slovenia is caught in the middle, the country's interior minister, Boštjan Šefic, says Croatia has been seeking to boost the number of people it sends into Slovenia from the south, even as Slovenia's northern neighbor, Austria, announced it wants to limit the influx. A bottleneck formed over the weekend, after Hungary closed its border with Croatia.

With Hungary shutting itself off, Lauren Frayer reports for Morning Edition, "migrants are forced to go out of their way, hundreds of miles westward and create a new corridor toward northern Europe."

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Reporting from a camp where thousands of people spent the night and endured heavy rains, Lauren adds that cleanup crews are now "shoveling out huge piles of donated clothes, tents, blankets, that are all caked in mud."

The materials were left behind as refugees and migrants boarded buses in Slovenia to head for Austria. As the camp was being cleaned up, the next group of people was already headed to the area.

Today, photos from Slovenia show military forces in trucks and armored vehicles gathering along roadways — and in other images, aid personnel are seen delivering portable toilets and buses to help the most vulnerable travelers.

Slovenia's forces were evidently sent to staging areas Tuesday ahead of a parliamentary vote that's expected to endorse their use along the border under certain circumstances.

From the border town of Doboa, police on horseback led around 2,000 people on a march to Brezice, where a refugee camp has been set up.

"We came across them resting in a field, eating corn growing next to them," says BBC producer James Glynn. He adds that after a brief rest, the crowd was told to continue their journey to Brezice.

The latest rush of refugees and migrants, many of them fleeing conflict in Syria and other countries, comes as temperatures drop along the border — and as Hungary and other nations have sought to close their borders or limit the flow of arrivals.

So far this year, more than 640,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe, according to the UN Refugee Agency. More than half of them are from Syria.

Faced with delays, hundreds of people are being forced to camp outdoors along the route that they hope ends in Austria, Germany and other European Union nations.

From the Serbian-Croatian border, Susannah George reports for our Newscast unit:

"Hundreds wait to cross from Serbia into Croatia, where what was once a small transit center is turning into a muddy, makeshift camp. Tents line the sides of the roads and families are building small fires to stay warm.

"Ahmed Abdullah, from Aleppo, is traveling with his wife and children — they're all bundled up in donated jackets and hats, his youngest son's feet are wrapped in plastic bags. He says he's worried — it's getting colder and moving from one place to another is taking longer.

"Aid workers at the border say thousands were forced to sleep here overnight."

In Slovenia, Šefic says, "Despite recent developments, we are still doing our best to increase our capacities, especially with regard to heated facilities, so that we can take proper care of the refugees and migrants entering our country until their potential departure for Austria."

Šefic also called for a more permanent solution — a call that echoes the sentiments of Amnesty International.

"The fact is that European leaders have known full well for months that a situation like this could arise, but have still failed to prevent it by putting in place available support mechanisms," said Barbora Černušáková, a researcher with the group who is monitoring the situation at the Croatia-Slovenia border.

On the Greek island of Lesbos, the European Union has opened its first facility to register refugees and migrants. From Lesbos, Joanna Kakissis reports for our Newscast that there's mass confusion:

"More than half a million people have arrived in Greece from Turkey; they cross the Aegean Sea on flimsy rafts. More than 8,000 people arrived on Monday alone. The new registration center is supposed to help identify refugees quickly. But authorities are overwhelmed, and many families are still forced to sleep outside."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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