Serbian authorities arrested over 200 migrants last week as they cleared a makeshift camp near the Hungarian border. Both countries are experiencing a surge in illegal migrants, though the continent’s attention to the crisis has taken a backseat to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Serbian Interior Ministry said the migrant group was planning to illegally cross into Hungary when they were detained on Wednesday.
Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin made his country’s position clear when he said Serbia “will not be a parking lot for migrants.” He said the nation will not become a hub for criminals who “traffick human beings and earn money from their pain and suffering.”
Experts say the migrants crossing through Serbia and other Balkan states mainly originate in Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, though many are coming from Central Asia and other Middle Eastern countries.
During the raid at the temporary camp, police said they found an unspecified amount of weapons and cash. Several migrants were taken to the reception center, while others went to “the appropriate prosecutor’s office for further action.”
The leaders of Hungary, Serbia & Austria pledged new measures on Monday to contain the flow of illegal migrants into the European Union through the Western Balkans, as border control forces become increasingly strained.
Leaders Who Have A Backbone .https://t.co/JffjnQOrFV
— NATHAN (@mbga_uk) October 3, 2022
Serbia is a European Union membership candidate, and last week the country pledged to align its migrant policies with those of the EU. That would mean it cannot be used by migrants as the first country of entry to the continent.
The area has seen a strong surge in the influx of migrants this year. Analysts note that in the first eight months of 2022, 86,581 illegal crossings were detected at the outer borders of the EU and the Western Balkans.
This represents a 190% increase over last year.
Serbian President Aleksander Vucic last week met with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer over the surge in illegal migration. They agreed to an extended and heightened fence along the Serbian-Hungarian border and further meetings to work on fixing the issue.
Afterward, President Vucic declared that Serbia does not want to be a hotspot, and “we do not want people to stay with us.”
Other Eastern European countries report new arrivals have increased as much as 1,200% this year. Despite the skyrocketing numbers, the looming winter energy crisis and war in Ukraine have pushed the issue to the back burner for most leaders.