Report from Croatia: 'They Don't Know Where They're Going, or Where They Might End Up'

I've only taken a small step forward, but it feels monumental. How must the refugees feel? They have to take hundreds of steps like this one, just to trade their old lives for new ones.
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Croatia has closed its borders with Serbia. Not even native Croatians are allowed entry. I'm in Serbia now. For the past four days, I've been traveling along the border of southern Europe. Now, all I want to do is to return to Germany. But there's a problem; I left my car in Croatia on my way over here. I have to find a way back to Croatia.

Croatia's prime minister, Zoran Milanovic wants to redirect the refugees flowing into his country to Hungary. He says Croatia can no longer receive refugees. However, the Hungarian government is now building a fence on the Croatian border, to keep the refugees out. It's all one big mess.

No one knows how much longer Croatia's border will remain closed. "Maybe one day," says a border official. "But then again, maybe between five to ten days." What do I do?

Thousands of people want to try crossing the border; I decided to join them. The alternative is to take the much longer route through Romania, Western Ukraine, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Instagram: I'm now traveling with @mariafernandamp and @Hugo_Ayamar. Just arriving at #Sid.

Two French journalists give me a lift to Šid in their car. In Šid, I join a group of refugees. We attempt to enter Croatia by walking across the cornfields. People say there are landmines in this area. I feel queasy.

It's over 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The people around me are so heavily burdened, that they're constantly tripping and dropping their belongings. Their bags keep tearing. Many young men carry children in their arms.

Refugees take an unofficial route across the cornfields to get around the closed borders.

The Croatian authorities know that many refugees take unofficial routes into their country. But there's nothing much they can do. The fields are difficult to control; they would need police barricades that extend for miles. That's a blessing for the refugees. And for me too, in this case.

Croatia wants to avoid a repeat of Thursday's clashes between the police and the refugees, which broke out at the border with Serbia when police tried to stop the refugees from continuing their journey. Some people were injured, and some fainted.

"We are witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe here," a politician commented from a few feet away.

Many of the people I'm traveling with ask me if Croatia is safe, and ask me for advice about the best route to take to continue their journeys. Most of them are from Syria, and don't know anything about Europe. I try to limit what I tell them to geographical information. After Croatia there is Slovenia, then Austria, and then Germany. I say nothing more; I don't want to give them false hope.

They don't know where they're going, or where they might end up. Eastern Europe, in particular, won't allow refugees to set foot in their countries, even if they're just passing through. Those are the same countries that don't care much about admission quotas, or any other binding regulations. These regulations are meant to distribute the responsibility fairly among all EU countries.

It's a hot topic, and once this dispute ends, the EU will never be the same again. Because what will probably happen is that, for the first time in the history of the EU, a number of countries will be forced to apply measures that contradict with the will of their governments and peoples.

I have almost made it to #Croatia. #Tovarnik is open. But only through the fields.

I travel with the refugees for six more kilometers, until we make it to Tovarnik. Busses are already waiting for the refugees. They'll take them further north, towards Slovenia, because the refugees can't, and don't want to stay in Croatia. So, onwards. If nowhere else, they know they'll find a place in Germany.

Policemen ask me to step into one of the busses as well. But when I show them my ID, they let me walk into the town. I search for a pub, where I can get a drink and something to eat. The journey back to Germany is still long. And I'm still 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) from my car.

I've only taken a small step forward, but it feels monumental. How must the refugees feel? They have to take hundreds of steps like this one, just to trade their old lives for new ones. All the while, they must contend with hurdles, such as closed borders.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Germany and was translated into English.

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