Slovenian villagers disgruntled in eye of migrant crisis

migrantAs a helicopter whirrs over the Slovenian village of Dobova, discomfited residents look out over a rubbish-strewn enclosure where refugees sleep, play and try to keep warm by small fires.

A disused textile factory in the centre of the usually sleepy settlement has become a hectic halfway house for streams of migrants on their way to northern Europe — and not all the neighbours are happy.

“I think that it’s crazy. There’s too many of them,” said 18-year-old student Alan Zibert, whose small family garden is lined with police and army vehicles and the coming and going of Red Cross workers, volunteers and reporters.

Zibert’s mother, Sonja, said she “didn’t have a problem” with the migrants themselves, most of whom are desperately trying to escape war or poverty.

“But it’s too loud and we aren’t used to the noise,” she told AFP on her front porch, just across from the makeshift camp.

“I just hope it will be finished quickly.”

Since Hungary closed its border with Croatia to migrants less than two weeks ago, around 90,000 have been rerouted through Slovenia, overwhelming the tiny Alpine nation of just two million people.

– Nervous wait –

Until Tuesday, the migrants were forced to enter the country by foot, trudging from a train station in Croatia across the border — their path still evident from trails of litter and discarded blankets.

Improved cooperation between Croatia and Slovenia means trains now bring them directly across — but still the travellers must disembark at Dobova in the country’s east, register with the authorities and wait for another train to Austria.

“They want to get through the bureaucracy, it’s slow motion and they’re nervous,” said Miroslav Cunjak, a father-of-three and volunteer with Adra, a Slovenian NGO.

“We are full of empathy, but there’s a part of Slovenian society that is extremely against anything that’s unusual to their way of life.”

About two kilometres (1.2 miles) away in the small village of Rigonce, earlier the first port of call for migrants arriving by foot, residents expressed relief that things were returning to normal thanks to the improved train service.

Home to cabbage patches, tractors and roaming turkeys, the village had at the weekend looked more like the scene of a military operation, descended on by international media — and their cameras on drones — as well as huge army trucks.

“Now we can sleep at night,” said a woman in wellington boots, who gave her name as Vesna, passing through her garden gate with a litter-picker after tidying up along the road.

“People are happy because there’s no more screaming. A little village needs peace,” she said.

At a makeshift kitchen set up for passing migrants, volunteer Maria Linke said the villagers had been “really supportive” of their efforts to help the travellers.

But Vesna seemed less convinced.

“The end of Europe,” she said simply as she went indoors.

Other residents in the village declined to talk to AFP, while a policewoman still standing guard said they had been getting their homes sprayed with disinfectant.

“People are very happy for now,” she said.

– ‘Loud and dirty’ –

Down the road in Dobova, meanwhile, the latest train pulled up from Croatia carrying around 1,000 men, women and children — some flashing peace signs from open windows and shouting hello to journalists by the tracks.

At the former factory turned reception centre, migrants waved their papers at police and a translator in a bid to get on their way more quickly, while Red Cross workers wheeled an ailing woman on a stretcher into their van.

Piles of donated clothes and blankets were stacked around, with people occasionally driving up with more offerings.

One harried NGO worker said self-organised volunteers were so numerous and keen that they were adding to the chaos, rather than helping to control it.

But in the nearby Katic bar, as a circle of men played card games in the corner, bar tender Danijela Klenovsek said villagers had “nothing good” to say about the crisis situation.

“I hope for peace for us, because this town is very kind, quiet and clean. Now it’s loud and dirty.”

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