Emotional scenes as Croatians bring aid to departing migrants
There were emotional scenes in eastern Croatia on Thursday as local people came to hand out food and supplies to some of the migrants finally departing after a long wait near the border with Serbia.
Ilaca: There were emotional scenes in eastern Croatia on Thursday as local people came to hand out food and supplies to some of the migrants finally departing after a long wait near the border with Serbia.
As Croatia became the latest hotspot in the European migration crisis, the interior ministry said 8,900 migrants had entered the country by 1500 GMT.
Several hundred were finally on their way to the capital Zagreb after a chaotic day in which thousands of people were trapped for hours at a small rural train station in the town of Tovarnik, waiting for transport.
They had been taken by bus in smaller numbers to another station at Ilaca, about 10 minutes away, to avoid overcrowding.
There were manic scenes at Ilaca as people barged their way onto the train, and clambered up and into the narrow windows.
Old women and babies had to be pulled out from the crush, and arguments broke out over seats and floor space.
But things calmed down quickly as it became clear there was enough space for everyone, although many were set to spend the 300-kilometre (186-mile) train journey standing or squeezed into doorways.
Local women were the heroes of the hour, showing up with food -- including locally-made bread and jams -- water, and baby supplies."People have the wrong picture of these people. We didn`t help them, they helped us," said Ines Coti, a 20-year-old who came to the station at Ilaca with her mother.
"From what we hear I thought they would be angry or something. I was scared to come, to be honest.
"But they`re so polite. They`re people just like us. They deserve help, happiness, freedom.
"I`m so happy to be here, I have so much energy right now," she said, bouncing on her feet.
The area is right on the border between Serbia and Croatia and many buildings still show the bullet holes and damage left as a reminder of the brutal Yugoslavian wars of the 1990s.
"Twenty years ago we were the ones caught in war and needing help," said one old man who came to the station to offer assistance.
"I feel happiness," said Mohamed, a Syrian in his twenties who ran away from joining the regime`s army because he didn`t "want to be a killer or a victim".
"I waited two days for that train on the ground under the sun, without tents, water or food. Then the train came so we are very, very, very, very happy."
There is still a long wait ahead for those still in nearby Tovarnik, who are camping out in fields and the train station overnight.
With thousands more coming from Serbia, the pressure is on the Croatian government to mobilise mass transport now that it is becoming a major migrant thoroughfare towards northern Europe.
As Thursday night`s train pulled away, there were emotional farewells, selfies from the train doors and cries of "we love you!" and "we love Croatia!" from the departing migrants while the local girls made heart signs with their hands and wiped away tears.