Serbia plans security forces to stem migrant flow

By Talha Ozturk

BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) – Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Saturday that Serbia will form a joint police and military force to protect its borders from illegal immigrants and smugglers.

The number of refugees and migrants in Serbia has risen since Hungary, on its norther border, tightened its border controls.

Speaking at a press conference, Vucic said Serbia has 2,669 registered migrants, with 85 percent of them from Afghanistan and Pakistan, plus a very small number from Syria.

“We will form joint army and police teams to protect our border,” he explained. “Smugglers will be strictly punished. Our courts will undertake all legal measures to stop the crime and clearly show everyone that Serbia cannot be a parking lot for the Afghans and Pakistanis that no one else in Europe wants to see.”

He added that those who seek asylum will be accepted by help centers but those who don’t will face legal obstacles.

Meanwhile, a public park between the train and bus station and the Mikseliste help center in the capital Belgrade is currently home to hundreds of refugees.

Most of them spend no more than a day in Belgrade en route to Hungary, Anadolu Agency discovered in interviews.

Tajana Zadravec, a representative of Mikseliste, said that their center hosts about 300-400 people, including families and children, every day.

“Our center has hosted about 170,000 people since 2015. Most of them are coming from Bulgaria and going to Hungary. But lately they keep coming back from Hungary and they are stuck in Serbia,” said Zadravec.

Speaking to the migrants, Anadolu Agency reporters learned that most are from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. A very small number are from Syria.

Many say when they reached the Hungarian border they were stopped by border police so they did a U-turn back into Serbia.

Ahmad Srzad from Afganistan said that his final destination is France, but he couldn’t get into Hungary after the police used teargas and violence on them.

Tamor Zavid from Pakistan said he is trying to reunite with his family in Italy.

“I faced big problems at the Hungarian border, which is why I came back to Belgrade, but I won’t give up. My only wish is to reunite with my family,” said Zavid.

Since the beginning of 2016, over 173,000 asylum seekers and refugees have crossed into Greece and Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The numbers reaching Greece, especially via Turkey, have plummeted since March, when Turkey and the EU reached a landmark deal to stem the flow of migration and prevent deaths on the Mediterranean.