Serbia will not allow the return of refugees who previously passed through its territory, Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Tuesday in Belgrade.
Dacic spoke during a joint news conference with Slovenian counterpart Karl Erjavec. The Serbian official said that his country will take appropriate measures if Croatia, Slovenia and Austria make unilateral moves when it comes to solving the problem of refugees and migrants.
Since the beginning of the year Serbia received 35,000 irregular migrants, which is 6,000 more than in January-May of last year, said Dacic.
He explained that Erjavec came to Serbia to inform Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic about an initiative of Slovenia’s president, sent to the president of the European Commission and to prime ministers of the countries on the Balkan migration route. The initiative concerns “the need for finding a common response to the expected increase in the number of migrants” arriving to Europe from the Middle East and Africa.
Serbia asks and expects the EU to establish and define a clear European policy on this issue, Dacic told reporters.
Closing the borders, reducing the passage capacity and other unilateral measures regarding the Schengen agreement – as announced by Austria – will cause a chain reaction along the entire Western Balkan route, “and will necessarily lead to us, too, undertaking certain positions and measures and activities,” said Dacic and added that it was “important to avoid unilateral and one-sided solutions.”
According to him, the reaction of the state will depend on the reaction of other states on the migration route, “and Serbia cannot and will not allow migrants to remain in the country.”
“No one will stay in Serbia who did not seek asylum under international procedures. If somebody is counting on solving the problem by migrants remaining in Serbia, we guarantee that they will not,” said Dacic.
“We have acted more fairly than many European countries, but we are not exacatly stupid, either, and will certainly act in accordance with our interests, taking into account the European path of Serbia. We will be no less European that the leading EU countries,” he concluded.
Erjavec joined Dacic in his appraisal that relations between Serbia and Slovenia are “increasingly better,” adding that he came to Belgrade to present the initiative in connection with the migration crisis, but revealed no details about it. Erjavec pointed out to the fact that in less than four months about 420,000 migrants had arrived in Slovenia.
The Slovenian minister confirmed that the country will introduce “appropriate measures” if this is also done by Austria and Germany, related to more stringent reception of migrants.
“Coordination among countries along the migration route is very important and Serbia has a very important role there,” said Erjavec.
He commended the activities of Serbia in connection with the migrant crisis and added that the country had done everything that was agreed regarding this issue in Brussels.
Also on Tuesday, the European Commission once again made it clear that EU countries cannot send migrants back to Serbia after denying them asylum, even if they had passed through Serbia – because the country is not an EU member and the Dublin rules do not apply.