Balkan route: Hungary reinforces Serbian border fence amid continued violence and extensive controls, NGOs launch joint action to support refugees surviving winter in abandoned buildings in Belgrade
Hungary is increasing the height of its fence with Serbia amid continued violence against people on the move along the Balkan route. Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, is a crucial transit city with hostile conditions towards refugees.
Hungary has moved to raise the fence along its border with Serbia amid reports of increased pushbacks and violence by Hungarian authorities notorious for their systematic abuses and pushbacks of people on the move. In a press release published on October 31, Hungary put in place this measure “so that Europe does not have to reestablish internal border controls”. If Hungary did not protect its border, many European countries would have to reinstate controls at their borders, which would not only be inconvenient when traveling, but would also harm the European economy,” said Secretary of State Bence Rétvár . The Czech Republic has extended controls at its border with Slovakia by 45 days to counter an increase in migration on the Balkan route. In the meantime, people continue to take the Balkan route through Serbia as a transit country to get to ‘core’ EU member states despite measures to curb migration. According to estimates by the NGO Klikaktive, almost 90,000 people have entered Serbia since the start of 2022, compared to 60,338 for the whole of 2021, according to combined data from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). ) and the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration of the Republic of Serbia (KIRS). For these people, Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is “a crucial but hostile stopover city”. The city allows migrants to take a break for a few days after a perilous journey that subjects them to physical and verbal abuse before attempting to reach the EU. An asylum seeker revealed to Info Migrants how border guards physically abuse migrants at the borders of Greece and Turkey and between Serbia and Bulgaria, saying: “When the police catch people there, they beat them. A friend of mine was hit so hard in the head that he later went mad”. However, Belgrade is not a “good place to rest” as asylum seekers have limited accommodation options such as overcrowded and isolated camps, or city streets, abandoned buildings or parks. As temperatures drop, a joint action organized by refugee support groups including Collective aid, Frach Collectif, Klikaktive and No Name Kitchen to equip abandoned or demolished buildings and squats, where many migrants take shelter, for the ‘winter. In their action statement, the collectives said: “We condemn all violence against the PoM, we condemn human rights violations by EU member states and agencies! We fight against borders and for freedom of movement for all”.
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