When Hungary put razor wire along its borders, Croatia took centre stage as the East European country most affected by the surge of refugees from conflict zones in the Middle East. An estimated 44,000 people have arrived on Croatian territory since its neighbouring countries began to reject arrivals.
Croatia’s immediate stance on the refugee crisis was that no walls would be built and no barbed wire would be erected, because “in the 21st century barbed wire is not a solution but a threat”. This was warmly welcomed by political circles in the West.
Despite claims in the press that Croatia has closed its borders, the government insists that they remain open. And while public figures have expressed concern about being able to cope with the numbers, there remains a strong desire to help.
This is in stark contrast to the vehemently hostile approach taken by leading figures in Hungary and Serbia. It was also potentially surprising given Croatia’s reputation as a fairly closed and xenophobic society. Only recently, it suffered international shame when a swastika was painted on a football field in Split prior to a game with Italy.
The difference may be because the sight of thousands of desperate people escaping misery is painfully familiar to them. It is not long since many Croatian nationals experienced the same.