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'Mayhem' as crowds of migrants break through police lines in Croatia

Authorities in the country have said they expect an influx of over 20,000 people in the next two weeks.

Updated 10.50pm

1 Sky News Sky News

CROWDS OF MIGRANTS broke through police lines at the Croatian border with Serbia today after waiting for hours in stifling heat.

Authorities in the country have warned they have limited capacity to cope with an expected influx of over 20,000 people in the next two weeks.

There were emotional scenes late this evening as local people came to hand out food to migrants finally departing after a long wait near the Serbian border, at the end of a day which saw at least 8,900 migrants enter the country, according to the interior ministry.

The pressure is on the Croatian government to mobilise mass transport now that it is becoming a major migrant thoroughfare towards northern Europe.

Hungary meanwhile came under heavy criticism for its treatment of migrants at its own border with Serbia yesterday, when riot police fired tear gas and water cannon during several hours of clashes with rampaging migrants angry at being blocked from entering.

BBC reporter Fergal Keane, who’s at the scene at Tovarnik, detailed the developments on Twitter. People were pushing at police to get through before “mayhem” broke out, he said.

The situation has since calmed down, with people continuing their journeys on foot.

Tweet by @Fergal Keane Fergal Keane / Twitter Fergal Keane / Twitter / Twitter

Tweet by @Fergal Keane Fergal Keane / Twitter Fergal Keane / Twitter / Twitter

Tweet by @Fergal Keane Fergal Keane / Twitter Fergal Keane / Twitter / Twitter

Tweet by @Fergal Keane Fergal Keane / Twitter Fergal Keane / Twitter / Twitter

2 Sky News Sky News

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Train station chaos

A special train transporting 800 arrived near the capital Zagreb from the border early today.

However, thousands more were left waiting for trains in baking sun at Tovarnik - a tiny train station near the Serb frontier.

Croatia has said it will let people pass through freely on their way to other EU countries — but Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic warned his country’s resources for dealing with the influx are “limited”.

Syrian Abdullah Janabi, said:  ”We’ve talked to police many times and they won’t let us go.”

“We have money, passports. We can pay for buses and hotels but they trap us here. It’s like we’re in prison.”

“This is bullshit. We are happy to pay. Why are they keeping us here?”

Earlier, when a rumour spread that a train was coming, thousands of migrants – men, women and children – leapt to their feet, pressing against the railway line, but it proved to be a false alarm.

People have since begun making their way to the next country on their route – Slovenia – on foot.

Tweet by @Fergal Keane Fergal Keane / Twitter Fergal Keane / Twitter / Twitter

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Thousands left waiting

The UN’s refugee agency put the numbers waiting at the station earlier today at between 4,000 and 5,000.

Large crowds jostled for food and water from a small Red Cross team at the scene.

Bozo Galic, the head of the eastern county where Tovarnik is located, described the situation there earlier as a “humanitarian disaster”.

“We will be very constructive and cooperative (regarding migrants) but emphasise that there are limits to our capacities,” Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic told a cabinet meeting.

Only a day earlier as the first few hundred arrived, Milanovic had said the EU member – which is however not in the passport-free Schengen Zone – would allow free passage “where they apparently wish to go”.

EU summit

Separately today, the European Union has announced an emergency summit will take place in Brussels next Wednesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Austrian counterpart Werner Faymann had called for the meeting, after EU interior ministers failed to reach agreement Monday on how to redistribute refugees from overstretched ‘front-line’ countries like Hungary, Italy and Greece.

Interior ministers from the 28 member states are to hold a new emergency meeting next Tuesday.

Pressure for action mounted today after the European Parliament backed the relocation plan for the 120,000 refugees.

Includes reporting from AFP.

Read: Chaos as Hungarian police fire tear gas and water cannon at migrants >

Read: Fine Gael councillor defends letter saying Syrian 3-year-old’s family ‘were not fleeing for their lives’ 

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