OPATOVAC, CROATIA —
As European Union interior ministers negotiated a deal on quotas for migrants, scuffles broke out at a temporary reception center in Croatia for those transiting to northern Europe.
The makeshift center was quickly overwhelmed by thousands arriving via Serbia. The refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa demanded quick registration and transit through Hungary.
“This morning we had 1,600 people at the camp," said Jelana Bikic, a Croatian police spokeswoman. "During the morning, the number of people has changed. You can see a lot of people who are waiting for registration.”
Some migrants claimed ethnic discrimination.
“Police don’t let Iranians and Afghanis go in," said Abbas Hamid Mais, an Iraqi. "Because of this, these groups are making trouble. And, now we cannot go either.”
Mathieu Gaunin, a U.N. refugee staffer, denied any favoritism and said efforts were made to keep families together.
He said most people were behaving well under the circumstances, "but unfortunately, because of the mass, it’s getting very difficult because, well, the compound cannot expand that easily. I mean, it’s a settlement that needs to be arranged every day.”
A number of people lost patience in the hot sun and jumped the fence, while many more sought shelter, exhausted from their long journey.
While many struggled to get in, others waited anxiously at the exit, eager to continue their travel to Europe and what they hope will be a better life.