Is the dignified reception of all asylum seekers in Europe an illusion?
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Closing borders and European-wide cooperation: confused immigration policy in the Balkan states
At the crossroad of migrations to the European Union (EU), Balkan states cannot or do not want to step up their involvement in the management of asylum seekers, frustrating the EU’s expectations.
In order to cope with the threat of an increase in the number of persons seeking asylum in the Balkans, Croatia strengthened border controls. Likewise, Bosnia wishes to prevent entry into its territory, regardless of the High Commissioner for Human rights’ – Dunja Mijatović – concern over the way asylum seekers are treated in the country. Furthermore, Montenegro plans to build a barbed wire fence on its border with Albania.
These declarations were issued just as the Balkan states and the European Union were set to meet, on the 17th of May, at the EU-Balkans Summit in Sofia, which aimed at enhancing cross-country cooperation on migration management. The Sofia Declaration, adopted at the Summit, promotes common operational development in fighting illegal immigration and human trafficking. Just before the Summit, close to twenty non-governmental organizations had called on countries to comply with Human Rights Law, and specifically with the right to asylum. The International Organization for Migration has also urged European states to help Bosnia accommodate the hundreds of migrants arriving each day on its territory, in decent conditions.
Although the Balkan route is supposedly closed since 2016, the number of people transiting through the Balkan States has been increasing. Mirroring Slovenia’s concern, Bosnia and Herzegovina is getting increasingly worried about having to receive between 50 to 120 thousand people, seeing as it is struggling to provide dignified reception conditions to the 1 500 asylum seekers already in the country. Moreover, voices have risen against the arrival of additional migrants: the Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s Serb entity, refuses to welcome migrants on its territory and the Slovenian Democratic Party is launching an anti-immigration campaign.
While comparing his own border fence with that of his Hungarian counterpart – Viktor Orban, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov – who hosted the Summit – argued that it is the duty of European Member states to manage migration flows, following the example of Bulgaria, that is to say by closing their borders.
This article was originally published in May in the “Veille Europe” of France terre d’asile, available in French HERE.