News 05 Feb 16

Serbia Urges Unified Solution to Refugee Crisis

At the London donor conference, Serbia's Prime Minister has called for unified international solution to the refugee crisis - which is affecting the Balkan region's stability.

Sasa Dragojlo, Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Maria Cheresheva
BIRN
Belgrade, Skopje, Sofia
High UN Comissioner for refugees Philip Grandi and Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic at the London conference | Photo: Beta

The world has to be united in its decisions on Syria - and Serbia will accept any European solution on the refugee issue, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told a conference of world leaders in London dedicated to the Syrian crisis on Thursday.

“We expect Brussels and particularly some EU countries to make it clear what their position is on refugees, and the government of Serbia will strive to actively contribute to what is agreed,” Vucic said.

The Prime Minister added that although Serbia was not a rich country or an EU member, it would still donate the UN children's organisation UNICEF 500,000 euros for Syria.

Representatives of some 60 countries, including 30 world leaders, have attended the conference, including the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The donor conference, the fourth of its kind, hopes to meet the UN demand for nations to stump up 7.73 billion euros to help in Syria plus 1.23 billion in assistance to countries in the region affected by the crisis there.

To achieve the conference's objectives, donors will need to show more generosity than last year, when the UN and its agencies received only 3.3 billion euros of a promised 8.4 billion.

In the run-up to the London conference, concerns have been raised in Serbia and Macedonia about plans to create a "buffer zone" for refugees on the so-called Balkan route.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who was also at the London conference, said on Thursday that Bulgaria’s contribution to the global effort for providing relief to refugees from the Syrian civil war would reach 400,000 euros in 2016.

The Greek-Macedonian border is the main entry point for refugees seeking to go to Western Europea.

Normally, 2,000 or 3,000 people cross the border daily, so the fresh situation has added to the burden facing the authorities.

Macedonia, along with Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, introduced a new, stricter border policy on November 18.

Since then, it has only allowed refugees from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to enter the country. The authorities have pushed back to Greece thousands of people from other countries, treating them as economic migrants, ignoring any claim they may have to asylum.

Some local residents and police officers told BIRN that the tougher measures have revitalised old illegal migrant trafficking routes.

In 2015, about 600,000 refugees passed through Macedonia to Serbia, according to Serbia's Commissariat for Refugees and Migration.

NGOs are warning that Europe should brace for another major influx of Middle Eastern refugees in the spring.

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