Serbia and Croatia prepare to deal with migrant wave

By bne IntelliNews September 16, 2015

Ivana Jovanovic in Belgrade -

Serbia and Croatia are now in the front line of Europe's refugee crisis after Hungary completed its fence along the entire Serbian border and imposed fast-track checks on on all those entering the country from there. 
Hundreds of refugees remain on the Serbian side of the border, wondering where to go next, while Croatia braces for an expected influx of migrants using the country as an alternative route northwards. Croatia said scores of asylum seekers were caught trying to cross the border with Serbia over the night of September 15.
Croatia is likely to face a large influx of migrants after Hungary sealed its border with Serbia, said Zlatko Sokolar, head of the interior ministry's border administration. Croatia has prepared an emergency plan that it is ready to quickly activate should refugees start arriving in large numbers, Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said following a cabinet meeting.
The Hungarian stance is already sparking tensions with Serbia. Hungary is is insisting on registering all aslyum seekers who try to enter the country, and is refusing to allow entry to any refugee who has already been registered in Serbia, which it classes as a safe country and therefore the proper place for the aslyum seeker's claim to be processed. Any rejected asylum seekers into Hungary are also sent speedily back to Serbia. The first group of refugees were returned to Serbia on the evening of September 15, Serbia's Tanjug news agency reported.
Serbian officials have reacted strongly after the Horgos1 border crossing between Hungary and Serbia was closed on September 15. Labour minister Aleksandar Vulin said that Serbia would only accept the return of refugees that haven’t tried to enter Hungary, potentially leaving some in no-man's land.
Foreign minister Ivica Dacic called on the EU to find a joint solution as Serbia is not a collection centre and shouldn’t ruin its relation with neighboring countries because of the refugee crisis. 
Serbia needs the international community's help –  both in terms of financial support but also human resources and organisational assistance –  to respond to the largest refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War, Nikola Kovacevic, a lawyer at Belgrade’s Centre for Human Rights, told bne IntelliNews. There is no single state that can deal on its own with the rivers of people that are constantly arriving, he added.
Since the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have escalated, thousands of people have been entering Serbia on a daily basis, heading to Western Europe. The country has improved its capacities – by establishing additional registration points in refugee camps in Kanjiza and Presevo, close to the borders with Hungary and Macedonia, where refugees enter and leave the country, and by using students from the police academy – but significant numbers of refugees remain unregistered. According to Kovacevic, Serbia barely succeeds in registering half of the 2,000-3,000 people who enter the country from Bulgaria and Macedonia.
Refugees in Belgrade’s city parks are waiting to move towards Hungary, saying that one of their main concerns is that if they get registered in Hungary they would have to stay there in accordance with the EU's Dublin Regulation. Refugees are also scared of the way the Hungarian government and police could treat them.
Hungary's tightening of its stance towards migrants  is expected to push those seeking asylum towards other routes, most likely Romania or Croatia.  While Romania looks like a dead-end – Hungary has already announced plans for a fence on the border with Romania – Croatia appears a more feasible option. In Presevo in Serbia, where more than 1,300 refugees were registered on September 15, bus companies now offer transport to Sid, a city on the border with Croatia, in expectation that refugees will choose to go there.
Croatia has a 325km border with Serbia, more than half of which is along the Danube River. The border is around 100km from Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, across flat land. However, local media has warned of the dangers from leftover land mines remaining in the region from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Morever, traveling via Croatia is more complicated as the country is still not in the Schengen zone, which means that refugees will have to pass one more border control in Slovenia before they reach Austria.
Milan Antonijevic, director at Belgrade-based YUCOM, a committee of human rights lawyers, told bne IntelliNews that Serbia was dealing correctly with the ongoing refugee crisis prior to the latest changes from Hungary.  However, Antonijevic warned that capacities have to be extended and new refugee camps opened, which includes the preparation of citizens for acceptance of refugees in order to avoid any kind of conflicts or riots.
“This should be a kind of introduction to a future improvement of the asylum system of Serbia that should have much better attention paid to social inclusion of refugees that might want to stay in Serbia,” Antonijevic said.
Kovacevic said the best way for Serbia to help refugees is to try to find a way to attract some of them to stay, and the first step should be shortening the process of obtaining asylum, which can last a couple of years.
Since the beginning of the year, some 160,000 people have passed through Serbia, but only 500 have requested asylum.

Related Articles

UK demands for EU reform provoke fury in Visegrad

bne IntelliNews - The Visegrad states raised a chorus of objection on November 10 as the UK prime minister demanded his country's welfare system be allowed to discriminate between EU citizens. The ... more

Erste claims Hungary is breaking peace deal with banks

bne IntelliNews - Hungary will breach its February agreement with Erste Group if it makes the planned reduction in the bank tax conditional on increased lending, the Austrian lender's CEO ... more

Austria's Erste rides CEE recovery to swing to profit in Jan-Sep

bne IntelliNews - Erste Group Bank saw the continuing economic recovery across Central and Eastern Europe push its January-September financial results back into net profit of €764.2mn, the ... more

Register here to continue reading this article and 2 more for free or 12 months full access inc. Magazine and Weekly Newspaper for just $119/year.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. A confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

Thank you for purchasing a bne IntelliNews subscription. We look forward to serving you as one of our paid subscribers. An email confirmation will be sent to the email address you have provided.

To continue viewing our content you need to complete the registration process.

Please look for an email that was sent to with the subject line "Confirmation bne IntelliNews access". This email will have instructions on how to complete registration process. Please check in your "Junk" folder in case this communication was misdirected in your email system.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and magazine

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and monthly magazine, the leading source of business, economic and financial news and commentary in emerging markets.

Your subscription includes:
  • Full access to the bne content daily news and features on the website
  • Newsletters direct to your mailbox
  • Print and digital subscription to the monthly bne magazine
  • Digital subscription to the weekly bne newspaper

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

bne IntelliNews
$119 per year

All prices are in US dollars net of applicable taxes.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Register for free to read bne IntelliNews Magazine. You'll receive a free digital subscription.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. The confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

IntelliNews Pro offers daily news updates delivered to your inbox and in-depth data reports.
Get the emerging markets newswire that financial professionals trust.

"No day starts for my team without IntelliNews Pro" — UBS

Thank-you for requesting an IntelliNews Pro trial. Our team will be in contact with you shortly.