A growing number of migrants using the new Balkan route through Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia to reach the EU raising concerns of a humanitarian and security crisis.
Security and human rights ministers from the region will meet in Sarajevo on June 7 to agree on new measures to tackle the ongoing migrant crisis affecting mostly Bosnia, trading blame on who is responsible for the potential crisis.
The recent rise in people using Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and partly Serbia as a new transit route to reach Western Europe with the some Balkan country’s accusing each other of not doing enough to protect the borders.
According to the announcement, Bosnian authorities insisted on the regional meeting after complaining about “lack honesty“ in the neighbouring countries and pushing migrants toward Bosnia.
Bosnian security minister Dragan Mektic said on May 30 that there is an increase in the number of migrants from Iran and that in this sense, Bosnia country has a serious problem because Serbia has abolished visas for Iranian citizens.
“We are facing a serious problem because Serbia has abolished visas to Iranian citizens. They [migrants] legally come to Serbia, and they pass us [Bosnia] illegally and go to the EU. We do not have the right to determine Serbia to whom the visa regime is to be introduced, but Serbia should give us readmission without any problems,“ Bosnian security minister Dragan Mektic told a press conference on May 31.
He said that announced that an international migration conference will be held on June 7 to which all countries of South-East Europe, including Austria and Hungary, are invited.
“At this meeting, I will ask the questions that need to be answered, and that is to be correct and honest and whether we will fight migration or how we will shift the problem to someone else’s yard. I have information that some countries show that they have from the beginning of this from 100 to 300 migrants, from where then we have five thousand, “Mektic told.
Mektic also said that the European Union Crisis Fund approved a million euros help for Bosnia.
Bosnia faces serious security crises peaking in late May after almost 5.000 illegal entries registered since the beginning of the year and 4,215 apply requests.
IOM, the UN Migration Agency, also warned on June 1 that migration flows through the Western Balkans are still on the rise. By the end of May, authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania registered more than 6,700 new irregular migrants, more than a two-fold increase compared to an estimated 2,600 migrants and asylum seekers registered in these countries in the whole of 2017.
On May 31, Austrian media quoted its Interior Ministry’s asylum, migration and human rights directorate chief who has warned that a new Balkan migrant route is being created, calling it the “mosque route.”
On this route, as directorate chief Peter Webinger said, mosques offer support to migrants.
Croatia also has recently increased its police presence along its border with Bosnia due to the massive increase of migrants using Bosnia as transit toward Western Europe.
“Croatian police has strengthened all necessary capacities to control the state border, the outside border of the EU with Bosnia and Herzegovina, with additional deployment of officers and engagement of the necessary human and technical capacities,” Croatia’s President, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, told Beta news agency on May 29.
In Serbia, Albania and Montenegro, but especially in Bosnia, migrants only officially submit the asylum status requisite but the majority of them do not plan to stay and want to reach Croatia.
In Montenegro, because of the unexpected migrant influx the authorities mull to erect the razor-wire fence on the 26-kilometres long borderline with Albania, also accusing official Tirana of not doing enough to deal with the problem.
Chief of the department of state border control in the Montenegrin Interior Ministry, Vojislav Dragovic, said that the erection of a border fence at the Albanian border is going to be considered and Hungary offered help to donate the fence.
He also blamed the official Tirana of not wanting to accept the illegal migrants back after they arrive in Montenegro, despite readmission bilateral agreements between the two countries.
“They often justify that there is no evidence that the migrants that entered the territory of Albania and didn’t want to take them back,” Dragovic told local media on May 29, saying that with the new wave of migrants coming with a possible problem with the human trafficking.
In Albania, Numbers of immigrants stopped by police in Albania had grown by 15 fold this year compared to previous year, raising concerns about a new immigrant route to north through Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia, although the numbers are relatively small.
Albania Prime Minister Edi Rama told media in Austria on May 30 that there were about 2311 illegal immigrants up to May this year from 162 the same period the previous year.
During 2017, Albania intercepted 1,047 people at its southern borders, mainly Algerians, Syrians and Libyans.
These numbers are very small compared to hundreds of thousands that passed through the so-called Balkan Route in 2015, however, there is fear that a new route might be used by immigrants trying to reach Western Europe through Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants passed through the so-called “Balkan route” in 2015, trying to reach Western Europe, but Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania were mostly not part of that route, which was effectively shut down in March 2016.