Barbed wire barrier at Veliki Ormoz village, at the border between Slovenia and Croatia | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/ANTONIO BAT
Barbed wire barrier at Veliki Ormoz village, at the border between Slovenia and Croatia | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/ANTONIO BAT

NGOs working on the Balkan route compare the idea of setting up defensive walls against migrants to Brexit, a decision that brought back to Europe the concept of borders. A wall is not sufficient to stop the flow of migrants, just like water finds its way, they said.

According to NGOs working on the Balkan route, the idea tabled by the EU Ministers of setting up walls to prevent irregular migrant crossings is costly and useless, it will only provide a temporary obstacle that will become ineffective in no time.

Some NGOs went as far as comparing this idea with Brexit, because if the idea of setting up defensive walls were to be accepted this would affect the entire concept on which Europe itself is built: the end of barriers.

Frontex figures for 2022 show 64% increase in crossings compared to 2021

According to the latest Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) report, in 2022 there was a significant increase of migrant arrivals, with approximately 330,000 irregular crossings at the EU's external borders, 64% more than in 2021.

The Western Balkan route is the most popular one, with 145,000 crossings and an increase of 136% in a single year.

According to Silvia Maraone, the Ipsia-Acli coordinator for projects in Bosnia, these figures are actually a conservative statistic because only migrants who are intercepted are counted, if the numbers included those who were not counted it would probably need to be doubles.

"The attempt to block arrivals by reinforcing borders, water or land ones, has been done for years but it is not working. We have a wall between Serbia and Hungary since 2015, yet it continues to be one of the principal routes of migrants inflows," she notes.

A new wall, she states, "will increase the smugglers' network and increase the number of deaths. To avoid passing through barbered wire, men, women and children will end up in a crevice, they will try to cross a river. We see this every day, this is what is already happening: as the borders become reinforced, for example in Croatia, the number of accidents and fees paid to smugglers increase."

Even Cesare Fermi, the European head for the NGO Intersos, insists on this point: "Physical barriers are costly, fragile measures that must be guarded by the police and as a consequence they also lead to corruption, where there are walls, holes also exist."

Think Tank Cespi: 'they are not the solution, migrant flows always find a way'

What is the solution that should be proposed? "By building a wall the problem is moved further away, but sooner or later it returns because the migration inflow is like water, it finds a way," says Daniele Frigeri, Cespi researcher and Director, the international policy center.

What is needed is "the creation of regular routes. The EU lags behind for this aspect but the figures call for serious attention, with the demographic decrease the welfare system will not survive its aging population. Instead the "concept of closing off to others" is "self-harming for Europe, a continent that can live only if it maintains open relations with the rest of the world," observes Gianfranco Schiavone, President of ICS, the Italian Solidarity Consortium, an NGO present in Trieste.

"Economic development over the past 30 years has been based on the end of borders, it is sufficient to see what is happening with Brexit," he commented.


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