Why do Indian migrants try to reach the EU via the “Balkan route”? | Asia | An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW
In the Serbian border town of Kikinda, located near Hungary and Romania, around 100 Indian migrants are living in a reception center after being refused entry to the European Union.
Its proximity to two EU member states makes Kikinda a popular destination for migrants.
“We have 540 beds in the centre, but 550 migrants are staying here at the moment. This means that we are overcapacity now. Three hundred and sixty of them were from Bangladesh and a hundred from India,” said Andreja Marcenko, the camp admissions officer, told DW.
“It’s a new trend. Indians have been coming here for a few months,” Marcenko said.
The camp, which houses only men, is run by the Serbian refugee agency, with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). . The camp has a sports ground where mainly South Asian migrants can play cricket.
Kikinda camp has set up white tents to shelter an influx of migrants from India
“Mistreated” by the police
Harjinder Kumar, 39, from India’s Punjab state, told DW he arrived in Serbia several months ago. He said he got into debt after taking out loans to pay for his mother’s medical care.
“I came to Serbia hoping to one day reach the EU. After going there, I will repay all the loans I took in the past,” he said.
Kumar’s numerous attempts to enter the European Union have failed. He said he felt stranded in Serbia after losing around €2,000 ($2,299) he paid human traffickers for the illegal trip.
Kumar cooks and sells chicken biryani to his fellow migrants in the camp. “It’s pocket money for some of my friends and I here,” he said.
Harjinder Kumar wants to work in the EU to pay his medical bills. He sells biryani at the camp for pocket money
Although many migrants stay inside the center’s main building, most Indians live in a large white tent set up in a corner of the complex. Officials have not explained why there is a separate place set up to house Indian migrants.
Jasbir Singh, 27, said he came to Serbia a few months ago after failing to find a job in India. Singh said he paid around €12,000 to human traffickers to try to enter the EU.
Like Kumar, Singh comes from the state of Punjab in northern India. Singh said he tried to enter the EU illegally from Hungary, Romania and Croatia. All his attempts failed due to the strict border controls carried out by the EU border agency Frontex and the border police.
He also said he was mistreated by border police.
“The European police do not respect us. They even take off our turban during the check and forcefully grab and shake our beards. They also take our clothes off and force us to walk back to Serbia in extremely cold weather,” Singh said. at DW.
Jasbir Singh said he was mistreated by border police as he tried to enter the EU
For years, migrants have accused border forces in Croatia, Hungary and Romania of carrying out violent “pushbacks”.
Why do Indians take the “Balkan route”
In 2015 and 2016, hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants, mainly fleeing conflicts in the Middle East, passed through Greece, an EU member state, and continued through Bosnia and Serbia to reach countries like Germany. It quickly became known as the “Balkan route”.
Since 2017, more migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan have tried to enter the European Union illegally via the Balkans. For Indian citizens, Serbia is the only country in Europe that allows visa-free entry, making it a popular destination.
“Since 2017, they don’t need a visa to come to Serbia for a short stay. Indians fly directly to Belgrade. And, from here, they try to get to EU countries “, said Marcenko.
Some Indian migrants have also tried to stay in Greece. Earlier this month, a group of 16 migrants were arrested by police in North Macedonia as they tried to cross into the EU at the Greek border.
Other Indian migrants are also trying to enter Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina, as they say crossing the Serbia-Bosnia border illegally is relatively easy.
Dozens of Indians live in the Lipa migrant camp in the Bosnian border town of Bihac. Indian migrants told DW they came to Bosnia hoping to reach the EU for economic reasons.
“I crossed the EU border and entered Croatia twice in the last month,” Vupindar, an Indian migrant from Lipa camp, told DW.
“My attempt to join the EU was unsuccessful. The Croatian police deported me to Bosnia,” he said.
“I didn’t pay money to human traffickers to arrange my trip to the EU. I use Google Maps to reach it on my own,” he added.
Vupindar said trying to enter the European Union illegally from Balkan countries was unsafe and not recommended.
“If I had a job in India, I wouldn’t have come to Bosnia like this,” Vupindar said.
Edited by: Wesley Rahn