Hungary credits Western Balkans illegal border crossings drop

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The Hungarian authorities have claimed the merits for the drop in the number of illegal migrants trying to reach the European Union through the Western Balkan route.

In a brief published by About Hungary, a website managed by the international communications office of the cabinet office of the Hungarian Prime Minister is it said that the 26 per cent drop in the number of illegal migrants through the WB route in the period January-March 2023 compared to 2022 has happened thanks to the strengthened protection of the Hungarian borders, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

The EU’s border protection agency, Frontex, has said in a new report that illegal border crossings to the EU from the Western Balkans have fallen in annual comparison in the first three months of 2023, thanks to strengthened protection of the Hungarian borders, among other factors,” the brief reads.

According to Frontex, which is the EU border agency, the other factors mentioned by About Hungary, are the visa-policy alignments in the region with the EU, more precisely, Serbia’s reintroduction of visas for several countries, the citizens of which need a visa to the Schengen Zone.

In the past year, the EU has often criticised and blamed Serbia for contributing to the high number of illegal migrants reaching the bloc, after this country enabled the citizens of several third countries to enter its territory visa-free.

These people travelled to Serbia, and then illegally crossed the borders into the EU, for which to enter legally they would need a visa. The most recent country for which Serbia has introduced visas is Bolivia, the citizens of which need a visa since February 10, to travel to this country.

Previously in 2022, the Serbian authorities also reintroduced visas for Tunisia, Burundi, India, and Guinea-Bissau.

Visa-free entry may further be scrapped for third countries, as Serbia has quite a wide list of countries that can enter its territory visa-free who need a visa for the EU, which includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, China, Cuba, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Suriname, and Türkiye. For most of them, visa-free access to Serbia is “a gift” for not recognising the Republic of Kosovo as an independent country.

Following the reintroduction of visas for entry into Serbia for the countries previously mentioned, even Austria has reported a drop in the number of asylum applications at the end of 2022.

The end of visa-free entry for Indian and Tunisian citizens is an important measure to limit the scope for organized crime – the smuggling mafia – to act. Due to the sharp decline in the number of Tunisian and Indian asylum seekers, the asylum brake is beginning to have an effect,” Austria’s Interior Minister, Gerhard Karner, had said at the beginning of this year.

According to the most recent report by Frontex, in the first quarter of 2023, the number of irregular border crossings to the EU increased to 54,000, 26 per cent more than in the same period last year. While a decline was only recorded in the Western Balkan, detections in all other routes increased.

Source: schengenvisainfo