Serbia: Tougher Line On Migrants Worries Experts


By Milivoje Pantovic

Human right activists on Wednesday said Serbia’s tougher line towards refugees and migrants was creating additional dilemmas.

“The state definitely wants more control, we saw that when they changed their policy on the refugee camps. Now, only those who apply for asylum can enter [Serbia’s] permanent refugee centres,” the director of the Asylum Protection Centre, Rados Djurovic, said.

But he added that recent changes in policy towards refugees would create new logistical problems that will be hard to cope with.

“The status of people who asked for asylum in Serbia and then left for other countries [in the EU] and are deported back from EU to Serbia, is unknown. That will be one of the issues that needs to be solved,” Djurovic told BIRN.

The number of refugees in Serbia has risen steadily since Hungary tightened security on its border with Serbia early in July.

Hungary has now ruled that any migrants or refugees found inside the country, up to eight kilometres from the border, must be sent back to the “transit” zone beyond the Hungarian fence on the Serbian border.

As a measure to stop the increase of refugees in Serbia, the government in Belgrade has sent a joint military and police force to the southern border with Bulgaria and Macedonia.

Since Monday, several hundred migrants and refugees have also been prevented from entering Serbia and returned to Bulgaria and Macedonia.

Reports say those who expressed a wished to seek asylum in Serbia were transported to Serbia’s registration centre in the town of Presevo.

BIRN has also found out that Serbia and Hungary are considering placing asylum seekers who want to continue towards the EU in refugee camps until Hungarian officials allow them to cross that country.

At the moment, Hungary is only letting in 15 refugees per day on two border crossings with Serbia, at Horgos and Kelebija.

State Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs Nenad Ivanisevic said on Wednesday that the refugee “Balkan route” is far from closed and that Serbia needs more help from the EU.

“The situation on the border with Hungary shows that refugees keep coming,” Ivanisevic told the public broadcaster RTS.

“By the end of the week, we will adopt a document on new developments in the refugee crisis and we will call for help from our partners,” Ivanisevic added.

Some 100 refugees who staged a protest march from Belgrade to Horgos on the border with Hungary on Friday are still on a hunger strike, protesting against Hungary’s tough line towards refugees. They are provided with medical help but still refuse food.

“All the refugees on the border have been offered transport to refugees camps and centres but nost of them have refused [to go] since they believe that if they are closer to the border, they will pass somehow,” Ivan Miskovic, from the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, told BIRN.

“They do not disturb anyone and do not break the laws so the police are letting them stay,” he added.

During the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, about a million refugees crossed Serbia on their way to EU countries. In 2016, so far, some 100,000 refugees and migrants have crossed Serbia on their journey to EU countries.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly 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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