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Winter approaching, migrant surge shows no sign of fading

Thousands of migrants and refugees continue crossing Southern Europe, facing freezing temperatures and other mounting hardships. Hari Sreenivasan reports from Greece.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    As winter approaches across Europe, migrants and refugees desperate to enter the E.U. face even bigger challenges.

    Hari Sreenivasan reports from Greece.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Billowing smoke signified the latest threat to the thousands crossing Southern Europe: fire. It erupted at a camp along Slovenia's border with Croatia and jumped from tent to tent, likely sparked by bonfires, as migrants struggled to keep warm. There was no word of casualties.

    The camp is one of many that Slovenia has filled to capacity since thousands began arriving from Croatia over the weekend. A number of people in the camp had just arrived after a brutal 24 hours. During the night, a train from Croatia released them near the frontier. Then, in near-freezing temperatures, they were forced to wade across a river.

  • MAN:

    It was very cold. It was a very big — after that, we decided to come in here. We need help. We need dress. We need food.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    After the fire, many in the camp were taken away on buses headed north to Austria. Elsewhere today, hundreds waited in fields guarded by Slovenian authorities waiting to be told where to go next.

  • MAN:

    I do not think it's Europe like this, but when I come to here, so difficult. I'm sorry for Europe. Europe is sad.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The Slovenes have appealed to the European Union for help. And early today, their Parliament authorized a greater role for the army, guarding the border with Croatia.

    Thousands more migrants have trekked through Greece and Macedonia to Serbia, where they're pressing to continue their own journeys into Western Europe. Overnight, some 3,500 spent the night in the freezing cold at the Serbian-Croatian border after Croatian officials closed the gates.

  • WOMAN:

    The situation is very challenging. The people were here all the night. They spend all the night, because the border was temporarily closed, that such a capacity was very slow. So, many families with children, elderly people, people with disability were spending the night here.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Scuffles broke out as the frustration of waiting proved too much for some. As before, others took matters into their own hands, crossing fields and orchards at dawn, evading police where they could.

    Meanwhile, in Vienna, the head of Croatia's police met with his counterparts from Hungary, Slovenia and Austria.

  • VLADO DOMINIC, Croatian Police Director (through interpreter):

    The daily influx from Macedonia and Serbia into Croatia is about 10,000 migrants. They are transferred every day towards the Slovenian border, and Slovenia moves them towards Austria. We must stem the migrant crisis as soon as possible, so that we reduce the number of migrants arriving to Europe.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    To that end, the president of the European Commission called a Sunday summit of the Balkan states and others. But the human surge showed no signs of abating. In Greece, three giant ferries a day are bring refugees to Athens' main port from the Greek islands where they land.

    This ship, which arrived just before dawn, carried roughly 2,000 people, most of them headed on to buses to take them north. By now, though, some like Mohammad Ghunaim, a Syrian medical student, have tempered their enthusiasm.

  • MOHAMMAD GHUNAIM, Syrian Medical Student:

    Very happy and excited, but I have to make my own plan. I have to make my own future right now. Europe is not a big dream. You will make your dream. It's like the American dream. How — the American dream, you will make your dream.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Many more were following that dream across the Aegean Sea from Turkey today, despite the mounting hardships.

    More than 500 people survived heavy rains and thundershowers to get to the island of Lesbos on their flimsy boats today. When they got there, there wasn't enough shelter. Volunteers had already run out of rain covers, leaving children standing in the rain. These migrants and refugees understand that the weather will certainly get worse.

    They're also starting to get concerned about the climate, the uncertain climate toward migrants across much of the European Union.

    In Athens, for the PBS NewsHour, Hari Sreenivasan.

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