Migrants start arriving in Austria across Slovenian border, opening new route

Slovenian police take a group of migrants and refugees from the Rigonce-Harmica border crossing to a registration centre. AFP

VIENNA (AFP) - Some 150 migrants entered Austria from across the Slovenian border on Saturday, opening up a new route for the thousands seeking to cross the Balkans into northern Europe.

The desperate migrants, who police said crossed the border at various points, were taken to the southern Austrian town of Spielfeld and placed in the care of the Red Cross.

"A mother who had apparently recently given birth had to be taken to hospital," Red Cross spokesman August Bauck told the APA news agency.

Austrian police were expecting more migrants to arrive across the border.

The arrivals were the latest manifestation of a crisis that is being increasingly met by new fences being erected across Europe's borders.

Europe is facing its biggest migration crisis since World War II as it struggles to cope with a massive influx of migrants fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere.

In the latest chapter of the EU's escalating problem, Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia are tussling over how to cope with the wave of refugees desperate to reach northern Europe.

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar has said his small country might consider creating "corridors" for refugees wanting to reach northern Europe if they continue arriving in large numbers.

Slovenian police said Saturday that 1,287 had arrived as of midnight Friday, of whom 483 were from Afghanistan, 470 from Syria and 126 from Iraq.

The Slovenian authorities have set up a migrant registration centre in the small town of Gornja Radgona on the Slovenian border.

Hungary has sealed its southern border with Serbia, cutting off one of the biggest entry points for migrants into the European Union, prompting several hundred migrants to enter Croatia on Wednesday.

Slovenia lies between Croatia and Austria, thereby becoming a new route through to Germany, where many of the migrants are hoping to reach.

Preparing for the possible arrival of thousands of people through its border with Slovenia, Austria's Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner last week said it would introduce border controls along its southern frontier.

Croatia will continue to redirect migrants to the Hungarian border, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said Saturday as Budapest and Zagreb wrangled over how to deal with the crisis.

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar has reaffirmed that the country will fulfil its responsibilities as a member of the European passport-free Schengen zone, which some commentators see as under threat as nations seek to stem the influx of migrants.

"Slovenia is a guardian of the Schengen zone. It's our European commitment," he said Saturday.

However when the country of two million inhabitants surpasses its capacity to accept people "we will have to find an agreement with other countries," he told reporters during a visit to the Brezice migrants centre near the border with Croatia.

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