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Slovenia reopens border to flood of migrants

Migrants were trapped at a rain-soaked crossing between Croatia and Slovenia after Hungary closed its border. As countries fought over limits in the numbers of people they would accept, thousands found their own paths across the frontier and Slovenia reopened its official border. Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports on how governments are struggling with the flow of migrants.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    A new tide of migrants surged across the Balkans today as the weather worsened. They resumed their desperate journey after a two-day stoppage.

    Malcolm Brabant has been tracking the story. He's in Denmark tonight, where he filed this report on the day's developments.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    It was the desperate plea of some 2,000 migrants trapped for most of the day at a rain-soaked border crossing between Croatia and Slovenia.

  • MAN:

    Just one thing, one thing. Please open the door, because we are dying here.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Their journey ground to a halt after Hungary closed its border with Croatia, sending a human wave west toward Slovenia. The Slovenians, in turn, declared that they would accept only 2,500 people a day from Croatia. And they condemned their neighbors to the east for not slowing the flow.

  • BOSTJAN SEFIC, State Secretary, Slovenian Interior Ministry (through interpreter):

    Croatia asked us to process 5,000 migrants per day. And of course, on the other hand, we have a request from Austria, which says they possibly accept more than 1,500. We cannot accept a number of migrants larger than the number of those who will continue their journey.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Croatia's prime minister shot back today that his country had no choice but to let the migrants pass through.

  • ZORAN MILANOVIC, Prime Minister, Croatia (through interpreter):

    Obviously, yesterday, we kept 5,000 to 6,000 from coming in on the other side in Serbia. But it's apparent that this is no solution.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    It was all too much for the thousands waiting at that official border crossing.

  • MAN:

    The government there, and the government there, no humanity, no humanity.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    For a time, the ripple effect also extended further east, keeping more than 10,000 migrants stranded in Serbia. In turn, the Serbs said they would consider restrictions on their border with Macedonia.

    Then, late today, Slovenia reopened its official crossing, and the flow resumed. By then several thousand people had already found their own paths across the frontier.

    The majority of those migrants began their journey in Turkey, hoping to get to Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Turkey over the weekend with hopes of addressing the issue at its source. She arrived with prospects of a European Union aid package of more than $3 billion, if Turkey will do more to stop the human exodus.

    But, today, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that wasn't enough.

  • AHMET DAVUTOGLU, Prime Minister, Turkey (through interpreter):

    We would never accept a deal that assumes we gave this money to Turkey so the refugees should stay there. And I told this to Merkel. Nobody should expect Turkey to become a country housing all migrants, like a concentration camp.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    In Northern Europe, the two countries which have been most hospitable towards refugees are struggling to cope with the influx, amid growing opposition from those opposed to mass immigration.

    In Sweden, which expects to take in about 150,000 refugees this year, there have been three separate arson attacks in the past week on centers that were supposed to house newcomers. In the northern city of Umea, which is close to the Arctic Circle, the authorities are so concerned about the potential for trouble, that they are refusing to say whereabouts they are going to accommodate 150 new refugees.

    In Germany, the police union is warning about trouble between rival factions in refugee camps. And it's urging the government to erect a fence along the border with Austria.

    In the meantime, Merkel's poll numbers are falling, and the flow of migrants continues unabated. The Greek coast guard rescued nearly 2, 600 people from the Aegean Sea this weekend alone.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Malcolm Brabant in Copenhagen.

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