Balkan route: nothing like getting out of Greece – politics

There are a few points, on or near the so-called Balkan route, where it cannot be overlooked that more people have recently been on the move again in south-eastern Europe. In Rijeka, for example, the Croatian port city. A center for the care of refugees has recently been set up in the train station. There they get drinking water and hot meals and can be examined for parasite infestation. Deputy Mayor Goran Palčevski explains that since mid-September the number of people seeking protection arriving by train from the capital Zagreb has increased massively. Or the Preševo ​​refugee camp in south-western Serbia: It reports overcrowding. In the north of the country, on the border with Hungary, the Airbnb portal deleted a number of accommodation offers that were marked “No Migrants”.

What is happening on the Balkan route, which is actually a network of several main and secondary routes through Southeast Europe, is making EU politicians nervous. According to the European border protection agency Frontex, more than 22,300 “irregular border crossings” were registered in the region in October of this year alone – almost three times as many as in October 2021. In the first ten months of this year, according to Frontex, the western border was crossed Balkans the highest number “since the peak of the migration crisis in 2015”.

So are there similar scenes ahead as in 2015? At that time, hundreds of thousands of people, mainly Syrians and Afghans, came over Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary to Germany. Pretty sure not. Because you have to look for this classification in the Frontex presentation, the high number of registered border crossings is apparently essentially due to “repeated attempts” by “migrants who are already in the western Balkans” – and also to those who came to Serbia by plane without a visa; a practice that the country is now gradually ending under pressure from the EU.

The migration researcher Gerald Knaus, chairman of the think tank “European Stability Initiative”, finds the current debates about the Balkan route “dubious”. The term alone wrongly suggests that the problem lies outside the EU. The people who are now being picked up at the south-eastern European borders are mostly on their way from one part of the EU to another. To put it more precisely: “from countries that no longer respect the applicable standards in dealing with those seeking protection to those that still do.”

The government in Athens relies on brutal isolation and deterrence

Greece in particular has relied on brutal isolation and deterrence in recent years, and not just at its external borders. Life is also being made increasingly difficult for refugees who are already in the country. Last year, for example, the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia ruled that people seeking protection who had already been registered in the EU country Greece but had applied for asylum again in Germany should not be sent back to Greece against their will. According to the court, they face the “serious risk of inhuman and degrading treatment” and a “situation of extreme material need”.

According to figures from the United Nations, around 13,700 people have been irregularly evacuated since the beginning of this year Turkey entered the EU country Greece; For comparison: in 2015 there were more than 860,000, in 2019 still more than 74,000. According to migration researcher Knaus, what is currently being observed is in a sense an “emptying of the Balkan route”, driven by “the fact that Greece treats people this way that they want to go to Austria or Germany”. The currently high number of registered irregular border crossings between the countries along the route shows something completely different: “The project to close the Balkan route, which started in 2016, apparently failed with a bang,” says the researcher, “despite all the violence at the borders.”

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