Balkan migrant route still exists

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SOURCETanjug
Photo: REUTERS / Yannis Behrakis

PRESEVO – Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, Minister of Social Affairs Aleksandar Vulin and Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar said in Presevo Friday that migrants were still travelling along the Western Balkan route, adding that 102,000 had been registered in Serbia since the beginning of the year.

Serbia will do everything to prevent illegal entries to its territory, protect its citizens and provide a humane treatment to migrants, said the ministers, who are also members of a working group set up to deal with mixed migration flows.

They were in Presevo, southern Serbia, to mark the first anniversary of the establishment of a local reception centre.

“A year ago we proved that the Balkan route exists. In a year, over 600,000 migrants passed through our country, and since January 1 this year we have registered 102,000 migrants passing through Serbia even though the Balkan route has been closed since the beginning of March. That means that the Balkan route still exists and that the people are finding it increasingly difficult to reach European Union countries,” Vulin said.

Serbia will not allow itself to become an area for stranded migrants just because all other countries have closed their borders, Vulin said.

“Mass closures of borders in Europe have led to people smuggling becoming more remunerative. Smugglers take between 1,000 and 9,000 euros from migrants, but we will fight that as fiercely as we can,” said Stefanovic, who noted that migration flows were on the increase.

Over the past three months, most of the migrants have been crossing into Serbia from Bulgaria, the ministers said.

The Presevo reception centre is currently home to just 13 migrants from Syria and Afghanistan.

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