BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbian police and army will form joint patrols to protect the country’s borders from illegal crossings of migrants mostly coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Saturday.
Around 100,000 migrants from Middle East, Asia and Africa have passed through Serbia so far in 2016 despite the closure of the so-called “Balkan route”, which hundreds of thousands used last year to reach Western Europe.
“Serbia does not want to become a collective center for migrants,” Vucic said following a meeting of the country’s top security body.
Vucic said most of the migrants enter Serbia from Bulgaria. “Majority of them come from Pakistan and Afghanistan and they have no chance to cross to Hungary,” he said.
Last month Hungary, Serbia’s northern neighbor and an EU member, adopted a law that allows police to send back illegal migrants detained within eight kilometers (five miles) of its razor wire-fenced southern frontier with Serbia.
Hungary has also limited the number of daily admissions to the transit zone to a maximum of 30. The move created a bottleneck, with migrants creating makeshift camps near the transit zones between the two countries.
More than 650,000 people, many of them fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere, passed through Serbia last year on their way to the European Union.
This route was largely shut down in March after a series of border closures by EU states.
(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac, editing by David Evans)