More Than 12,000 Migrants Arrive in Slovenia; Authorities Ask EU for Help

Migrants as they make their way on foot after crossing the Croatian-Slovenian border, in Rigonce, Slovenia, October 22. Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters

LJUBLJANA/RIGONCE, Slovenia (Reuters) - More than 12,000 migrants have crossed into Slovenia in the last 24 hours and thousands more are expected, prompting authorities to ask the rest of the European Union for help dealing with the flood of people.

Slovenia has asked the EU for police to help regulate the flow coming from Croatia, Interior Minister Vesna Gyorkos Znidar told TV Slovenia. Some 10,300 of the migrants remain in Slovenia, an interior ministry spokesman said.

Croatia also decided on Thursday to seek international help, the news agency Hina reported. The government said it will ask for blankets, winter tents, beds and containers. Since mid-September, 217,000 refugees have entered Croatia.

Migrants began streaming into Slovenia last Friday, when Hungary closed its border with Croatia. Before then, they were heading for Hungary—a member of Europe's Schengen zone of visa-free travel - and then north and west to Austria and Germany. Sealing the border diverted them to Slovenia, which is also a member of the Schengen zone.

With more and more bottlenecks being created across the Balkans, thousands of migrants are spending cold nights under open skies in Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. Another 9,000 are expected to enter Serbia on Thursday, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees office in Serbia.

"It is alarming, because the weather is getting cold," Seda Kuzucu, UNHCR field coordinator in Presevo told Reuters.

Police officers escort Fatima from Syria (front) and other migrants as they make their way on foot after crossing the Croatian-Slovenian border, in Rigonce, Slovenia, October 22. Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters

'We Want Normal, Simple Life'

About 2,000 have walked through corn fields, wrapped in blankets, to reach the small town of Rigance in Slovenia from Croatia. From there they will be taken to a nearby camp and after being registered continue their way to Austria and then Germany.

Anas Kaial, a 31-year old Syrian from Hama, where he ran a snooker bar, spent the night under open skies with his mother, wife and three children.

"It was so cold," he said. "The only way we could distract our children from the cold and make them stop crying was by telling them that they will get all the Barbie dolls they want once we come to Germany.

"It's enough. We just want to have a normal, simple life. We can't afford more bloodshed and shelling."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban urged European leaders late on Wednesday to change their immigration policies and involve voters in a debate about the continent's future, saying they would otherwise face a political crisis and a threat to the democratic order.

He said he had asked Hungary's Balkan neighbors to help send the migrants back.

"The right thing to do is not to ensure their passage into Europe but to take them back to the refugee camps they started out from," he said.

European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos will visit Slovenia on Thursday to discuss the migrant crisis. Meanwhile, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called an extraordinary meeting of several European leaders for Sunday.

Juncker invited the leaders of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia.