Balkans Migrant Route Practically Closed, Serbia Says
Serbia announced on Tuesday that the so-called Balkans route used by migrants to reach western Europe will be de-facto closed following Slovenia’s decision to deny entry into the EU’s free-travel Schengen zone to migrants without valid visas and passports, Tanjug reported.
Earlier in the day, Croatia had informed Serbia’s Ministry of the Interior that Slovenia would introduce new regulations for entry into the Schengen zone as of Wednesday.
“This practically means the closing of the Balkan route,” Tanjug quoted the Serbian Ministry of the Interior as saying in a statement.
“Bearing in mind the new regime introduced by an EU member state, Serbia cannot allow to become a collection point for refugees, so it will coordinate all [migration-related] measures with the EU and reciprocally introduce them on its southern and eastern borders with Macedonia and Bulgaria,” according to the statement.
Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar announced earlier on Tuesday that the flow of irregular migrants on the Western Balkans route has come to an end.
His comments came after Monday’s summit of EU leaders and Turkey in Brussels, at which an agreement in principle has been reached for the return of migrants from Greece to Turkey. The plan has yet to be formally approved at an EU summit on March 17.
Countries lying on the Western Balkans route tightened border controls and capped the number of migrants allowed to enter their territories last month. The restrictions aimed to stem the flow of migrants and refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey and moving on to Western Europe via Macedonia and Serbia. The caps on the daily number of migrants allowed to transit countries on the Balkans route, however, have left up to 14,000 migrants stuck at Greece’s northern border with Macedonia.
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