The overwhelmingly anti-mass migration result of the Hungarian referendum has left Serbia worried that it could mean tougher border controls, leaving them swamped with thousands of migrants.
The result of the Hungarian referendum has rocked the political landscape of Europe. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sees the result, which saw 98 per cent of Hungarians vote to reject the European Union’s mandatory resettlement of migrants, as a validation of his anti-mass migration policies.
Though much of the reaction to the vote has been from Western leaders, now the Serbian government has expressed fear that tougher border laws could mean they will be stuck with thousands of migrants who are no longer able to proceed north to Hungary, reports Austrian paper Der Standard.
Serbian paper Vecernje novosti wrote the headline “7,000 Refugees Remain in Serbia” on Sunday, the day of the Hungarian referendum. The Hungarian authorities have been tough on asylum seekers trying to cross the border from Serbia, which sits directly to the south, over the last few months — letting only around 30 in per day.
While some have claimed that the Balkan route of migration has totally closed, for Serbians the picture is somewhat different as the country has received thousands of migrants this year. Most of the migrants have ended up in makeshift camps along the Serbian-Hungarian border in scenes similar to the Greek camp in Idomeni or the Calais Jungle camp.
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic has called on the country to be proactive and to tighten their own borders, to prevent the nation from filling up with migrants unable to proceed to Hungary.
Reuters reports Nikolic said: “If Serbia becomes a funnel from which water cannot drain because others further along have shut their own borders, Serbia must shut down its own (borders) regardless of its convictions.
“If Hungary did not anger the EU, Serbia will surely not”.
The official figures of how many migrants currently reside in Serbia is difficult to quantify, but the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) claims that there around 5,200 asylum seekers in various migrant camps in Serbia. The vast majority, some 60 per cent, are not Syrians, but are young Afghan men.
Afghans have become the largest proportion of migrants in European countries including Austria where they now make up the majority of residents in asylum homes. The asylum seekers all share common traits – they are all men and they are generally all young.
Director of the Belgrade Asylum aid centre, Rados Durovic, puts the actual figure much higher saying that the real number is more likely from 7,000 to upwards of 10,000 asylum seekers in Serbia.
Most of the migrants in Serbia have little interest in staying in the country, preferring to be allowed to travel northwards to countries with more generous benefits like Germany or Sweden.
Serbia also fears that a stronger policy from Hungary could lead to unrest among the growing migrant population on the border.
* * *