Home » Western Balkan States Discuss How to Manage Migration at the Side of EU Conference
Balkans European Union Featured News

Western Balkan States Discuss How to Manage Migration at the Side of EU Conference

Security and migration officials from six Western Balkans nations say they want to work together with the EU and United Nations agencies to improve migration management.

Security and migration officials from six Western Balkans countries on Thursday (June 8) pledged to work together with the EU and United Nations agencies to improve what they call sustainable migration governance, news agency Reuters reported.

Since 2015, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia Herzegovina — all of which hope to join the European Union — have become key transit routes for migrants and refugees fleeing wars and conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

In more recent years, the so-called Balkan routes have seen an increasing number of migrants from Asia and Africa searching for a better life in the EU.

“When it comes to the migrant crisis, we from the Western Balkans face not only humanitarian challenges but also security and political challenges,” Bosnia’s Security Minister Nenad Nesic, who hosted the ‘Sarajevo migration dialogue’ at a mountain resort near the capital Sarajevo, declared.

Migration Dialogue conference

He also tweeted about the meeting, saying according to Google translate: “Minister Nenad Nesic opened the third Sarajevo Migration Dialogue Conference in Jahorina. The conference brought together representatives of the countries of the region and experts in the field of migration and asylum.”

In recent months, Bosnia has seen a rise in the number of migrants trying to reach the EU without the correct papers. Many of them are then returned to Bosnia. The rise correlates with Croatia becoming a member of the EU free-movement Schengen zone, which it joined on January 1.

Accusations of violent pushbacks

Over the past couple of years or so, NGOs and UN agencies, among others, have repeatedly accused Croatian authorities of using violence against refugees.

Last month, Human Rights Watch said pushbacks have long been the “standard operating procedure” for Croatia’s border police. It also accused the EU of routinely turning a “blind eye” to brutality toward migrants and asylum seekers.

Croatia has so far denied complaints of violent pushbacks by its police force.

At this week’s meeting near Sarajevo, meanwhile, the six countries agreed on a some points concerning migration management including agreeing to:

  • coordinate activities in tackling migrant smuggling and people trafficking;
  • increasing access to alternative routes for migrants stuck in transit; and
  • working on ways to return migrants.

“We are developing new perspectives for common policies because we can have results only if we work together,” said North Macedonia’s Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski. In a Tweet about the conference, Spasovski commented that “cooperation is the key to success for the region,” according to a translation by Google translate.

Backed by IOM

The Sarajevo Migration Dialogue took place at the same time as negotiations between the EU’s 27 member states about new asylum and migration policies. On Thursday (June 8), the countries agreed on an initial plan to enact tougher asylum and migration policies across the bloc.

Sweden, which holds the rotating EU presidency, called the deal a “good balance” of responsibility towards those seeking asylum and solidarity in the EU, while German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the agreement was a “historic success” for the bloc. Representatives from Sweden were also present at the conference, as was the UN Migration Agency, IOM, which helped organize the meeting.

The EU agreement was reached hours after tense negotiations, as some EU members like Italy, Austria and the Netherlands, said the compromise proposal was not good enough. Poland and Hungary voted against the proposals, while Bulgaria, Malta, Lithuania and Slovakia abstained. 

At this point, it’s unclear what the parts of the agreement that could affect the Balkan countries — particularly the stricter controls and checking of asylum applications at the EU’s external borders — could look like if they are eventually implemented.

Balkan route as active as before the pandemic

The number of people arriving in the EU without papers via the Balkans has returned to the pre-pandemic levels. Last year, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) registered 200,000 people who transited the region, up from around 125,000 in 2021.

“Trends in migration are very dynamic and the Western Balkans is a major transitory route,” Ugochi Florence Daniels, the IOM Deputy Director General for Operations, told Reuters. She praised the Balkan leaders for “solution-oriented approaches” and for choosing to work together.

Migration has shaped human history; and it is shaping our future. 

Yesterday I was at the opening of #SarajevoMigrationDialogue to discuss solution-oriented approaches to migration from, to and through the Western Balkans. 

Regional cooperation is key!
🇦🇱 🇧🇦🇷🇸 🇲🇪 🇲🇰 🇽🇰 pic.twitter.com/a8P4Vhvwqb— Ugochi Daniels (@daniels_ugochi) June 9, 2023

“The action plan is an opportunity to deal with the immediate issues — trafficking and smuggling and sustainable returns,” Daniels said.

It is also an opportunity to look at the longer-term opportunities that migration is bringing,” said Ugochi Daniels, underlining how important remittances are from those who migrate for their home communities. 

Source: Info Migrants