ISSN 2330-717X

Balkan States Told To Take In More Refugees

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By Sven Milekic and Marien Chiriac

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, on Wednesday proposed a new plan for accepting an additional 120,000 refugees in the EU and at the same time proposed that non-EU countries in the Western Balkans be put on a list of safe countries.

The proposition presented to the European Parliament adds another 40,000 to an existing plan for quotas set in May.

Under the newly revised quotas, Croatia will receive 1,064 incomers, Bulgaria 1,600 and Romania 4,646. The biggest quotas are given to Germany, with 31,443 refugees, and France with 24,031.

Besides the plan for national quotas, Juncker said the Western Balkan states should be put on a list of safe countries of origins, which means that people coming from these states will be classified strictly as economic migrants.

Thus, people from Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, along with Turkey, will not be able to seek political asylum in the EU and may be deported if their permits are revoked.

“If a country loses its status as a safe country, it will be denied the right to join the EU,” Juncker added.

The Balkan country set to receive the biggest number of refugees, Romania, has defended its plan to relocate a smaller number of asylum seekers than the EU proposes.

“As we said early this week, Romania has the capacity to take in only 1,786 refugees and out of these places, 200 are already occupied. We want to show solidarity with other EU countries, but we can’t do more,” Prime Minister Victor Ponta said on Wednesday.

The six centres for sheltering refugees in Romania have a total capacity for only 1,200 places, according to data.

As yet, Romania has not been hit by the wave of migrants crossing the Balkans by land and sea towards Germany and northern Europe. Only 913 people applied for asylum this year, 12 per cent more than in 2014.

Croatia says it can accommodate hundreds of refugees in its centres for asylum seekers, while two more centres, with the capacity for a hundred places each, will be built by the end of the year.

Croatia’s central coordinating body, the National Protection and Rescue Directorate, says it has a potential total capacity to hold up to 10,000 people temporarily.

Only 720 people applied for asylum in Croatia this year, and of these 720 requests, only 40 were granted, while 21 were given official state protection.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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