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With The Hungary-Serbia Border Sealed, Migrants Head To Croatia

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Now that Hungary has closed the border that was allowing migrants to enter Hungary from Serbia, a great pivot to the West is underway. Word is out that Hungary's neighbor, Croatia, is welcoming migrants. And nearly 6,000 have already crossed the border and entered the European Union. Reporter Lauren Frayer is at the point where the three countries meet. Good morning, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: OK, so three borders there where you are, and you've been traveling along one of them all day, I gather. What have you been seeing?

FRAYER: I've been driving along the Hungary-Serbia border where there's a huge fence but there are also holes in the fence. And people are scrambling underneath the barbed wire. I stopped and talked to one group. They had their little children with them. They had bundles of belongings. And they had approached a crew of Hungarian construction workers digging a ditch. The Syrians were asking them for directions on how to walk to Budapest. Neither group spoke one another's language. Both groups, though, construction workers and these desperate refugees, looked equally bewildered.

MONTAGNE: And the Croatian government is welcoming migrants to pass through. But in just a matter of a couple of days, the number of migrants has gone from functionally zero to thousands. How are they handling it?

FRAYER: So Croatia's prime minister, as you said, has promised safe passage. He said last night that barbed wire in Europe in the 21st century is not an answer. It's a threat. We can pretty much take that as a direct jab at the blockades that his neighbor, Hungary, has installed. The landscape here on the Croatian frontier is totally different. It's open. There are no fences. Farmers on their tractors are waving at migrants crossing their fields. But there are dangers here. Left over from the Balkan Wars, there are some 50,000 active landmines that spread out over about 200 square miles of this border area.

MONTAGNE: And so the government is trying to keep at least these migrants to the roads, to safe areas. But what ultimately does it mean for them?

FRAYER: Refugees and migrants are trading maps on Facebook, on smartphone apps that show safe routes. They're being warned not to walk across barren fields. Croatia's also sent demining technicians to the border. They won't be able to clear the mines in time for these people who've already started streaming across, but they can, at least, verify where they are and ensure that they're all marked. Once they do pass the danger of those land mines, though, the next country is Slovenia. And Slovenia said it won't create a safe corridor for migrants. They are doing passport checks. They will accept asylum requests, but they're not going to open their borders and let people simply pass through.

MONTAGNE: Lauren, thanks very much.

FRAYER: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: Reporter Lauren Frayer is speaking to us from where three borders meet, Hungary, Serbia and Croatia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.