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Stranded In Slovenia, Migrants Wait For Buses That Don't Come


We are going to start today with news from Europe, where leaders have been meeting at an emergency summit in Brussels to come to grips again with the migration crisis. Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees are now trapped in the Balkans on their way to northern Europe. Hungary closed its borders, forcing people west into Slovenia. Now more countries are threatening to do the same. Lauren Frayer reports from the Slovenia-Austria border, where thousands of migrants have been spending nights outdoors.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: In Arabic and in English, Austrian police broadcast a message to the crowd - stay calm. If you've lost your children, come to police.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Please go to the blue ....

FRAYER: Thousands have been sleeping here in no-man's land between borders, waiting for buses to take them to Austria. But they are not calm. They are panicking.

HAFEZ NADAF: I sit here, I and family, three days. Why not coming bus here?

FRAYER: Hafez Nadaf, a doctor from Syria, reads the news on his smartphone. More countries are threatening to close their borders. He's desperate to reach Germany before that happens. He sleeps outside rather in a heated tent nearby so he doesn't lose his place in line for the bus. But buses arrive at a glacial pace, taking away 50 people at a time while thousands more poor in from Slovenia to the south. Tiny Slovenia says it's overwhelmed. It's received more than 60,000 people in the past week. Camps are overflowing, says another, Khaldoun Ahmed, who's just come from there.

KHALDOUN AHMED: They don't have water or food. Two days without anything. And we don't have blankets, nothing, just floor.

FRAYER: Ahmed, like other Syrians here, did not flee his country when war broke out five years ago. He tried to wait out the fighting.

AHMED: I was a student in university, and I have worked for graduation, OK? I am graduate. I have to go to military, OK, and I don't want to be killer. I just want to be man and have a good life.

FRAYER: While his country was devolving into war, Ahmed was studying computer engineering and German.

AHMED: (Speaking German) And I hope to complete my German learning in Germany and there have master degree, OK, in Germany.

FRAYER: Many of the Syrians here are educated, multilingual, like Khoornush Kadro, a mechanical engineer. She fled for Turkey last year but couldn't get a work permit there.

KHOORNUSH KADRO: I stayed in Turkey. I wanted to come to Germany. But I couldn't, so I came by boat to Greece. It was in the sea at midnight. We scared a lot. But finally we arrive, day by day.

FRAYER: She's got one more country to cross, Austria, before she reaches Germany.

KADRO: Really, I told you I feel happy, feel safe. Finally, I will be relaxed after these dark days, really since four years, so dark days. And we lost everything, so I feel that is the end. I hope it will be the end, insha'Allah.

FRAYER: Insha'Allah, she says, God willing. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Sentilj, on the Slovenia-Austria border. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.