Balkan migrant route still exists as Serbia registers 102,000 migrants in 2016

Balkan migrant route still exists as Serbia registers 102,000 migrants in 2016
By bne IntelliNews July 11, 2016

Serbia’s Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs Aleksandar Vulin said on July 8 that the Balkan migrant route still exists as 102,000 migrants passing through Serbia have been registered since the beginning of the year.

Serbia has been dealing with the migration crisis since 2015, when thousands of refugees and economic emigrants from the Middle East and North Africa travelled via the Balkans trying to reach European Union countries, mainly Germany and the UK. Remembering the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and conflicts in its former republics that forced 2mn people leave their homes, Serbia’s government and citizens have tried to help refugees even though most of them are just passing via the country’s territory.

"A year ago we proved that the Balkan route exists. In a year, over 600,000 migrants passed through our country, and since January 1 this year we have registered 102,000 migrants even though the Balkan route has been closed since the beginning of March. That means that the Balkan route still exists and that the people are finding it increasingly difficult to reach European Union countries," Vulin said on July 8, on the first anniversary of the opening of the refugee camp in Presevo on the border with Macedonia. There are currently only 13 refugees from Syria and Afghanistan at the camp.

For Serbia’s Minister of Interior Affairs Nebojsa Stefanovic, the closing of EU borders while the migration crisis is still ongoing has resulted in migrant smuggling.

“Smugglers take between €1,000 and €9,000 from migrants, but we will fight that as fiercely as we can," said Stefanovic, adding that Serbian police filed 1,015 criminal charges against migrant smugglers in 2015 and 241 in 2016.

Over the past three months, most of the migrants crossed into Serbia from Bulgaria, the ministers said.

“Serbia is considering concrete action and measures to prevent any negative impact of the migrant crisis on Serbian citizens,” Stefanovic told Tanjug on July 7.

He said he expected Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic to call a meeting of a bureau coordinating the security services once the measures have been defined, and that the action to be taken would soon be announced.

Vulin also announced on July 7 he asked Vucic for the bureau to meet urgently over the migrant situation, Tanjug reported.

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