Serbia bars migrants unless seeking asylum in Austria or Germany

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia will deny migrants access to its territory unless they plan to seek asylum in Austria or Germany, a government minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

The ban follows action by Austria, which announced last week it would bar all migrants intending to pass through its northern neighbor Germany to other western European countries. On Wednesday it said it would cap the number of people it allowed to claim asylum this year at less than half last year’s figure.

Labor Minister Aleksandar Vulin - the Serbian government’s pointman for the migrant crisis - said Serbia would respond in kind.

“From today ... migrants will not be able to continue their travel (through Serbia) if they have not expressed intention to seek asylum on the territory of Austria or Germany,” state news agency Tanjug quoted him as saying.

In Zagreb, outgoing Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said neighboring Croatia would also ask migrants if they intended to seek asylum in Austria or Germany, state news agency Hina quoted him as saying.

A new, center-right coalition government takes office in Croatia, the newest European Union member state, later this week. Its officials have said it plans to clamp down on migrant flows in response to any similar action by Germany or Austria.

Reporting and writing by Matt Robinson, additional reporting by Igor Ilic in Zagreb; editing by John Stonestreet