Barred from Hungary, hundreds of migrants walked through cornfields into the European Union (EU) via Serbia's western border with Croatia on Wednesday, opening up a new front in the continent's migration crisis.
Croatian demining experts have now also been sent to the region, called in by police concerned at the threat posed by minefields left over from Croatia's 1991-95 war. Eastern Croatia, on the border with Serbia, saw fighting as Croatia split from federal Yugoslavia.
Hundreds of people, some of whom identified themselves as Iraqi, trekked through fields near the official Sid border crossing between Serbia and its fellow former Yugoslav republic, an EU member since 2013.
Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said on Wednesday that migrants entering the country will be allowed to pass through and continue their journey to western Europe, confirming around 150 people had entered from Serbia overnight.
"Croatia is entirely ready to receive or direct those people where they want to go, which is obviously Germany or Scandinavian countries," Milanovic told parliament. "They will be able to pass through Croatia and we will help, we're getting ready for that possibility," he added.
The migrants arrived by bus from the southern Serbian town of Presevo, rerouted late on Tuesday to the Croatian border after Hungary sealed its own frontier with Serbia to the wave of migrants streaming north across the Balkan peninsula.
Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said on Tuesday that 277 migrants had so far entered Croatia from Serbia following Hungary's border closure. "The number is rising. At the moment, 277 people have entered Croatia from Serbia," Ostojic told parliament.
Serbian media reported that at least 10 migrant buses had left Presevo overnight bound for Sid. A Reuters television crew saw three arrive, one a double-decker that offloaded its passengers within a few hundred meters of the border.
Croatian police confirmed they had crossed, saying an unspecified number had been rounded up and would be registered and transported to reception centers near the capital, Zagreb.
From there, it is around 18 miles to the Slovenian border and Europe's Schengen zone of border-free travel. Many will hope to cross Slovenia into Austria and on to Germany and other prosperous countries of western and northern Europe.
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