July 2016 – BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia will deploy joint army and police patrols on the borders with Bulgaria and Macedonia to curb illegal entry of migrants and people smuggling, the Balkan country’s prime minister said Saturday. Serbia’s move comes days after EU member Hungary started applying harsher border control rules that include sending migrants back to Serbia, which has left hundreds stranded in make-shift camps along the Serbia-Hungary border. Serbia lies in the center of the so-called Balkan route for migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing war and poverty in hope of reaching Western Europe. Balkan nations closed their borders in March to curb the influx, but migrants have been finding clandestine ways to enter.
Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said there are nearly 3,000 people currently in Serbia with many more coming in daily through Bulgaria and Macedonia. He said that most of the migrants in Serbia came from Afghanistan and Pakistan and stand no chance of asylum in any EU country. Most migrants want to reach the wealthy EU nations where more than 1 million people arrived in 2015.
“Serbia cannot be a parking ground for people from Afghanistan or Pakistan whom no one else in Europe wishes to accept,” Vucic said at a press conference. “Serbia must protect its national interests.” Vucic added that migrants who ask for asylum in Serbia will be granted help, but that the authorities will crack down on illegal entry. People smugglers “will be punished most severely, ” Vucic said. “Our prosecutors and courts will take all legal measures to stop the crime.” Hungary’s new rules that took effect on July 5 requires all migrants caught within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of the Hungarian border be returned to the Serbian side of the razor-wire fence built last year.
Human Rights Watch said in a report earlier this week that some migrants complained of Hungarian police beatings and brutality, which has been denied by Hungary’s government. On Friday, the U.N. refugee agency also expressed concern about the Hungarian policies and the conditions in the makeshift border camps. –WISC News