JAHORINA MOUNTAIN, Bosnia June 8 (Reuters) – Security and migration officials from six Western Balkan countries, all of which aspire to join the European Union, pledged on Thursday to work alongside EU and United Nations agencies United to improve sustainable migration governance.
Since 2015, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia have become key transit routes for refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and later for migrants from Asia and Africa. who seek a better life in rich countries. block of 27 members.
“When it comes to the migration crisis, we in the Western Balkans face not only humanitarian challenges, but also political and security challenges,” said Bosnian Security Minister Nenad Nesic, who hosted the meeting. in a mountain resort near the capital, Sarajevo.
In recent months, Bosnia has seen a rise in the number of illegal immigrants returned to the country by Croatia and Slovenia after Croatia joined the EU’s Schengen Zone of free movement on January 1. Many have complained about the violent pushback by the police, which Croatia has denied.
The six countries agreed to coordinate activities to address migrant smuggling and human trafficking, to increase access to alternative routes for migrants caught in transit, and also ways to return migrants.
“We are developing new perspectives for common policies because we can only get results if we work together,” North Macedonia’s Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski said, speaking via video link.
Migration trends in the region have returned to pre-pandemic levels, with 200,000 registered migrants transiting the region last year, an increase of 60% over the previous year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
“Migration trends are very dynamic and the Western Balkans are an important transit route,” Ugochi Florence Daniels, IOM Deputy Director General for Operations, told Reuters.
He praised the Balkan leaders for choosing to work together.
“The action plan is an opportunity to address the immediate issues: trafficking and smuggling and sustainable returns,” Daniels said.
“It is also an opportunity to look at the long-term opportunities that migration brings: remittances to the Western Balkans amount to $10 billion or 10% of GDP, it is a significant contribution to development,” he added.
Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Edited by Angus MacSwan
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