About 200 migrants gathered at Serbia’s border with Hungary on Thursday. Their demand: To be let into the European Union. But on Friday, they were bused to asylum centers further inside Serbia.
The migrants walked towards the Hungarian border in northern Serbia on Thursday and camped out at the Kelebija border crossing, blocking traffic. Among them were many families, including small children.
Our InfoMigrants reporter Sharif Bibi witnessed the scene:
At the border, the migrants stayed outside in tents in freezing and windy winter weather, demanding to be let into Hungary. (Hungary, unlike Serbia, is a member of the European Union.) Some held protest signs, bearing slogans like “we are refugees, not criminals”; many chanted “open borders!”
But their appeals were unsuccessful. On Friday, they were put on several buses by Serbian authorities and sent to asylum centers further inside Serbia, according to news agency AP.
The border crossing, which had been closed due to the protests, was reopened Friday morning.
Hungary: Spike in migrant entry attempts
Hungary has recently reported a spike in attempted illegal entry by migrants. In January 2020, more than 3,400 attempts were made to cross Hungary's southern border, according to an advisor to the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, compared with several hundred a month in 2019. A week and a half ago, a Hungarian security guard fired three warning shots when several dozen migrants tried to enter the country.
Hungary is known for its harsh anti-migrant legislation; Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban is considered to be one of the most anti-migration political leaders within the EU. Hungary erected a 175-kilometer border fence at the peak of the so-called ‘migration crisis’ in 2015-16; other states in and near the Balkans soon followed suit. This meant the closure of the ‘Balkan route’ – the migration route into Western Europe from Greece by land, through Balkan states such as Serbia and Bosnia.
Migrants stuck in the Balkans
Today, there are still thousands of migrants and refugees in the Balkans, hoping to be able to eventually travel to western Europe. Many have already tried and failed to cross the border to EU countries like Croatia and Hungary several times. People smugglers are active in the region, promising migrants that they will help them make it into the EU.
In Serbia, there are currently over 6,000 people from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan in official migrant centers.With material from AFP, AP, Reuters