Balkan migrant emergency shifts to Serbia

23,000 arrive in 2 weeks; situation improving in Macedonia

25 August, 10:40

    (ANSAmed) - BELGRADE, AUGUST 25 - The migrant emergency in the Balkans has shifted to Serbia, where hundreds are arriving every day after Macedonia decided not to block the border with Greece, resulting in an improvement of the situation along the Gevgelija border. Over 23,000 migrants have arrived over the past two weeks and almost 90,000 since the beginning of the year. Over the past weekend, some 10,000 migrants have crossed into Serbia's southern Presevo region, which has an Albanian Muslim-majority population. Among them are many women and children, with entire families willing to walk hundreds of kilometers to flee the war and desolation of their home countries. On Sunday night alone, 70 buses crammed with migrants arrived carrying mostly refugees from the war zones of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. There are also some Pakistani, Sri Lankan and African migrants arriving. The number is large for a country with only 7.5 million inhabitants that has not yet become an EU member and with very limited funds. Nevertheless, Serbia for the moment seems to be responding in a composed manner to the humanitarian emergency. Four migrant reception centers have been set up: two in the south, in Presevo and Miratovac, and two in the north along the country's borders with Hungary in Kanidjia and Subotica. Hungary is the country where almost all of the refugees plan to go, to then move on towards Austria, Germany, Sweden, France and other northern European countries. However, to get into the country it is necessary to get over a four-meter-high metallic and barbed wire fence that the conservative government under Viktor Orban built as a 'defensive' measure along the entire 175-kilometer border with Serbia. The fence, which was initially to have been completed in November, was sped up and will be finished by the end of August.

    Once in Serbia, refugees and migrants can request asylum, but most of them get a 72-hour temporary stay permit to be able to cross Serbian territory and reach Hungary. (ANSAmed).

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