Increased Middle East Fighting Prompts Latest Wave Of Migrants
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And now let's visit the latest European country flooded with refugees and migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere. Slovenia is accepting thousands more people per day than it says it can handle. The army has been deployed to border areas, and reporter Lauren Frayer is there. Lauren, where are you exactly and what are you seeing?
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: I'm inside Slovenia, about a mile inside Slovenia, at a camp where migrants and refugees spend the night. The morning mist is rising over damp cornfields here. There's a collection of canvas tents. I'm standing along a metal fence and on the other side are hundreds of migrants and refugees. There are children playing soccer, kicking around a plastic bottle. A group of Afghan men are performing their Muslim prayers behind the tents overlooking these fields. They've been here since last night. Many say they got their first hot meal here in days. They describe the journey across Serbia and Croatia as absolutely grueling. They had to walk miles and miles in the rain.
And I was here last night when they arrived. Some little Syrian kids gave me a huge thumbs up when they saw that the tents here are heated. As people get closer to their destinations in Northern Europe, there's a sense of relief that you can almost, you know, see literally washing over people here. This morning, people keep coming up to the fence and asking me for cigarettes and also for information. You know, when will they be picked up by buses and taken to Austria? Slovenia is trying to rush them across because thousands more are coming from Croatia. This is happening at half a dozen border crossings along this Croatia-Slovenia frontier.
INSKEEP: Lauren, you alluded to some Afghans as well as Syrians. What else do you know about who these people are who are trying to pass through Slovenia as quickly as possible?
FRAYER: At this camp where I am, it's a diverse group. There are even people from Mali in Northwest Africa. But there are many, many Syrians from Damascus, from Aleppo. I met a 27-year-old Syrian named Azad Abdu (ph). He's Kurdish. He fled the war in Syria two years ago and had been living in northern Iraq just outside Erbil where ISIS is gaining territory. And here he is, Azad Abdu, describing what's prompted him to flee now.
AZAD ABDU: So you hear bombs and everything, and the people are really worried. You don't know when it will happen again. And the economy there have been really, really affected - no work, no companies, nothing.
FRAYER: And there he is - he's speaking to a question that many, many people have about these travelers. I mean, Azad will you, he's both a war refugee and an economic migrant. And that's why he didn't stop when he reached Turkey, Greece, Macedonia. You know, all those countries are safe from war, but he thinks they won't provide him with the economic opportunities that, say, Germany might offer him.
INSKEEP: Are Slovenians particularly welcoming to these folks?
FRAYER: Well, Slovenia has deployed its army along this border. There was a small protest outside the Parliament last night by regular Slovenians who says that's not appropriate to use the military in dealing with people fleeing violence. Slovenia isn't the first, though. Hungary is also lining its borders with soldiers deployed there last month.
INSKEEP: Lauren, thanks as always.
FRAYER: Thanks for having me.
INSKEEP: That's reporter Lauren Frayer in Slovenia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.