Austrian border authorities have noted a drop irregular crossings
Austrian border authorities have noted a drop irregular crossings

Serbia's increasingly restrictive border policies are having an overall impact on the Balkan migration route. Austrian authorities say they have noted a significant drop of about 70% of people being intercepted while trying to enter the country using irregular means since mid-December.

The Serbian government in Belgrade has introduced a number of visa requirements to enter the country which previously had been waved. 

Among the changes introduced in recent months following intense pressure from the European Union are visa requirements for people from Burundi and Tunisia. Since the beginning of 2023, Indian nationals are also unable to enter Serbia without producing a visa.

These changes in border controls come after people from many nationalities could to Serbia without visas, from where they would continue their respective journeys. A significant number of people were noted to enter Austria this way to lodge asylum requests there.

In most instances, these requests would ultimately be rejected whenever people from countries considered to be safe (such as India and Tunisia) would file asylum claims.

Read more: Passing through Serbia in the hope of making it into the EU

Significant drop within a matter of weeks

Due to the changes in Serbia, the number of Indian nationals submitting asylum applications have dropped notably. 

The Ministry of the Interior in Vienna said that fewer than 300 such asylum applications per week were being filed -- compared to about 1,000 at the end of October 2022.

In the meantime, the number of people intercepted while crossing into Austria by irregular means of entry has also fallen sharply, the ministry added.

"We had days with 600 to 650 apprehensions in November. These daily apprehensions have dropped to 100 to 150 people," ministry spokesman Markus Haindl told the dpa news agency.

Given the relatively mild temperatures in southeast and south-central Europe this year, the ministry said it would rule out the possibility that the onset of winter was responsible for slowing down the rate of migration.

According to Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, 18,000 asylum applications had been filed by Indian nationals in Austria last year -- roughly one in five applications in total. 

He added that after being rejected in Austria, many of the Indians tried to submit applications in other EU countries thereafter.

Read more: 'Tents are not the answer' – Austria's migrant accommodation crisis drags on


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