news 18 Jul 16

Serbia, Macedonia, Boost Controls to Stop Migrants

Serbia is sending a joint military and police force to its border with Bulgaria and Macedonia to help curb migrant flows while Macedonia has tightened security on its southern border with Greece.

Milivoje Pantovic, Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Belgrade, Skopje
Refugee camp in Presevo near the border with Macedonia. Photo: Beta

Serbia's Interior Minister, Nebojsa Stefanovic, on Monday said Serbia was tightening controls on its southern border following concerns that a large number of refugees, who cannot enter the EU, could end up stuck in Serbia.

Stefanovic said that some 80 per cent of migrants crossing Serbia from Bulgaria and Macedonia are from Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the EU has made clear they cannot seek asylum in the EU.

The minister stated that economic migrants will be returned to those states from which they crossed into Serbia.

“Refugees do not want to stay in Serbia or to seek asylum here. However, in accordance with the law, we will provide asylum to those who seek it [in Serbia]," Stefanovic told Serbia's public broadcaster RTS.

On Sunday, Serbia adopted a decision on forming a joint force of police and military units to patrol the border with Bulgaria and Macedonia and prevent illegal movement into Serbia and the illegal smuggling of refugees.

Government officials did not want to disclose the size of the force that will be sent to the borders, citing security reasons.

Hungary decided two weeks ago that any refugees or migrants found inside the country up to eight kilometres from the border must be sent back to the so-called "transit zone", beyond the fence that Hungary has erected on the Serbian border.

Since the Hungarian decision to tighten up security on its border with Serbia, the number of refugees inside Serbia has risen.

The Commissariat for Refugees and Migration estimates that some 3,000 refugees are present in Serbia at the moment.

Meanwhile, Macedonia’s coordinative body for refugees and migrants, part of the national Crisis Management Centre, over the weekend assessed the overall security situation in Macedonia as “stable and calm” in light of the failed coup attempt in nearby Turkey.

However, it has also decided to boost its police and army presence on the southern border with Greece.

“We cannot say whether more migrants and refugees are expected at our border but these are measures of precaution,” the spokesperson for the Macedonian Crisis Management Centre, Nadica Vckova told BIRN.

“We decided to strengthen security measures at our southern border [with Greece] and that has already been done. The presence of police and army forces there has been boosted,” Vckova said.

More than 200 migrants and refugees are currently stranded in Macedonia, 130 in Gevgelija, near the southern border with Greece, and 80 in Tabanovce, at the northern border with Serbia.

During the refugee crisis in 2015, about a million refugees crossed Serbia on their path to EU countries.




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