Radoš Đurović, Executive Director, Asylum Protection Center (APC):

Fear Of Migrants Raises Fences

The continued influx of refugees and migrants towards Europe, despite the closure of the Balkan route and agreement between Turkey and the EU on stopping migration, as well as mass, suicidal crossings of the Mediterranean from the coast of Libya towards Italy, are a serious concern for the countries representing their ultimate goal or those located along their route to reaching that goal

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There is growing anxiety of a new wave of refugees emerging out of Turkey – from Greece, through the countries of the former Balkan route, to the north of Europe. All are afraid of what October will bring, which is the deadline by which the EU, as demanded by Turkish President Erdogan, should introduce visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens. Failing that, Erdogan warns, “Ankara will no longer respect the March agreement.”And the number of refugees in Greece is growing again. It has reached a total of 60, 000. (The numbers of those who arrive on the Greek islands are small compared to those trying to get from Africa to Italy.)

Humanitarian organisations and the Greek authorities warn that they can barely control the situation in overcrowded refugee camps on the islands, and that winter is coming.

Prime Minister Tsipras has appealed – the future of the continent will be called into question if the EU member states do not fulfil their obligations aimed at resolving the migrant crisis.

However, there is no solidarity and agreement between European countries. Faced with the fact that they have to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the common good, many countries insist on their own, narrowly defined interests and will of their ever more dissatisfied, terrorised, electorate. The countries of the Visegrad Group do not want to accept the prescribed quota on the distribution of refugees among member states; Austria believes refugees should be kept on the Greek islands; Bulgaria, Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary are strengthening their interstate barriers and announcing new wire fences to avoid illegal entries into their countries. There are increases in the presence of the police, army and the quantity of technical equipment at borders, and intimidation of refugees to discourage them from going further. The money allocated by numerous funds is directed equally towards the protection of borders as it is to the assistance and care of migrants and refugees.

Faced with the fact that they have to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the common good, many countries insist on their own, narrowly defined interests and will of their ever more dissatisfied, terrorised, electorate

Serbia is in a very difficult and delicate situation in this case. We are practically the last country before entering Europe, or Hungary, which accepts barely 30 asylum seekers per day. Those who attempt to illegally cross the border are roughly rejected and returned to the cross-border space with our country. Thus, at present there are more than 7,000 people stuck here, and those numbers are growing. Despite the obstacles, refugees arrive via Macedonian, the Bulgarian border, new routes heading via Kosovo and Montenegro… Those who have been returned (they also return from Croatia beaten), cannot be returned by Serbia to any of the countries through which they came.

Here they are located in 13 reception and asylum centres, but many of them are located in the so-called grey zone, out in the open, near the communication and transportation links, which enables them to exchange information on how to go further. According to the claims of the authorities, Serbia has the capacity to accommodate 6,000 people, while new centres are being prepared. However, apart from accommodation and food, there is also a need to deal with the increasing psychological, social and health problems of these people, particularly given that local governments lack money and support.

That is why Serbia should use international forums, discussions with countries and international organisations, to seek pledges and apply directly, without intermediaries, for the greater financial assistance it needs to adequately care for these people. It must make its state machinery as efficient, professional and fast as possible in managing the migrant crisis, and always take into account both the needs of migrants and the local communities where they are located.

Serbia is not the ultimate goal of refugees and migrants. They do not want to stay here, but this fact should not be the basis for the country’s strategy towards the migrant issue. While they are here, these people need to be cared for, have their health protected, certainly registered, visible to the system, involved in the local community. They need psychological and all other forms of support – both because of themselves and because of the communities in which they are residing.