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Migrants are encouraged by Aid Agencies to try ‘Closed’ Balkans Route into Europe

Serbia’s people-smugglers are looking for a share of a business worth more than $5 billion in southern Europe last year, according to international police agencies.

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Migrant children play with a cardboard box at a makeshift camp at the Serbian-Hungarian border near the village of Horgos, Serbia, May 19, 2016. Image Source: REUTERS/Marko Djurica
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Fifty young men line up in a Belgrade park where aid workers hand them supplies for the journey ahead – a backpack each, containing a torch, phone and blanket.

But the aid organisations can do little more for the migrants, since the Balkan route to western Europe was officially closed. To reach their destinations, they must now rely on their wits, determination and shadowy people-smugglers.

Esan Ahmadzia, an IT manager from Afghanistan, says he ran into trouble with the Taliban and is heading for Germany to join his family. Javid from Pakistan wants to go to Italy.

Balkan states have tried to seal their borders, but for many migrants, Serbia still offers a risky path to a better future.

The smugglers can charge thousands of dollars and expose the migrants to grave danger – anything from armed robbery to drowning.

More than 650,000 people from the Middle East, Asia and Africa trudged through Serbia last year on their way to the European Union, but in March the borders closed, leaving thousands trapped on the Macedonian frontier.

Migrants. Image source: SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty
Migrants. Image source: SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty

A deal between the European Union and Turkey has stemmed the armada of rubber boats reaching Greece and several other countries in the region have closed their borders to migrants.

But people are still reaching Serbia via Macedonia or Bulgaria – a steady influx of around 200 a day, according to the Belgrade Asylum Information Centre.

Smaller numbers are arriving in Serbia via a new route from Greece via Albania and Kosovo, refugee experts say.

Most migrants use smugglers to get into Serbia and will use them to reach EU member state Hungary. Before borders closed, refugees had free passage on this last leg of the route to western Europe.

A few dozen a day are allowed into Hungary, families with children having priority. Those refused often try to cross the border fence illegally. Migrant support groups report some are beaten and robbed.

DANGER

“It’s absolutely impossible to stop migration. They say they don’t have any alternative,” Rados Djurovic of Serbia’s Asylum Protection Centre told Reuters.

“People are using more risky ways and they are coming.”

Refugees gather in central Belgrade to meet the smugglers. One open space near the bus station is known as the Syrian park, while over the road is the Afghan park. A bed for the night is on offer at an asylum centre just outside the city.

At the Krnjaca centre, Shekib Daqiq, 35, said he left Afghanistan because he was threatened after working as an interpreter for the French army. His journey with his family via Baluchistan and Turkey was fraught with danger.

He became separated from his wife, Nilo, and two of his children after walking for five hours through a forest in Bulgaria. The three were later deported to Turkey, he said.

In Serbia, the vehicle smugglers were using to transport him crashed and caught fire. Daqiq then walked for hours, his face covered in blood and six-year-old son Sadi on his shoulders.

Daqiq hopes to reach France: “If the government of France helps me, it’s not difficult.”

Also at the Krnjaca centre is Rezan Ibrahim, 44, a Kurdish teacher who said she had fled murders, kidnappings and threats in Iraq. Serbia is “very good”, but asked if she wants to go to Germany, she replies: “Of course.”

She said the journey so far had cost nearly 22,000 euros (17,163 pounds) for her and her three children, in payments to smugglers. For the next leg she will have to pay again, with smugglers charging up to 1,500 euros to travel through Serbia into Hungary.

Saman Ali Vjestica of the Asylum Information Centre said smugglers demanded 7,000 euros to get people from Greece to western Europe, or 15,000 from their country of origin. The route into Serbia via Bulgaria is cheaper but migrants say they suffer more there at the hands of smugglers and security forces.

Routes through Serbia are often controlled by smugglers from Pakistan or Afghanistan, with locals providing transport and accommodation, Asylum Centre officials said.

Serbia’s people-smugglers are looking for a share of a business worth more than $5 billion in southern Europe last year, according to international police agencies.

Police have this year charged 187 suspects with trying to smuggle 1,323 people across Serbia’s borders.

Those working with refugees say that by the time they reach Serbia, they will not be stopped by closed borders.

“Europe is there,” said Djurovic. “You can grab it already.” (REUTERS)

(Writing by Giles Elgood; editing by Andrew Roche)

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All You Need To Know About India’s Strategic Chabahar Port

The Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar, which is on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran-Pakistan border.

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Chabahar Port is of great international significance in terms of trade, especially for India. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port is of great international significance in terms of trade, especially for India. Wikimedia Commons

By Ruchika Verma

  • The Chabahar Port is of great strategic importance for India
  • It is in Iran and is being built and operated by India
  • This port will increase India’s trade with Central Asia and Europe

The Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar, which is on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran-Pakistan border. Chabahar is the trans-shipment and logistics hub for the Makran Coast and Baluchistan province of Iran.

Chabahar Port is built and operated by India. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port is built and operated by India. Wikimedia Commons

The tension between India and Pakistan is nothing new. There are several instances where both the countries have tried to obstruct each other’s political or economic agendas. This obstruction, along with other strategic reasons, resulted in the India and Iran’s deal on the Chabahar Port, which is crucial because of several reasons.

Here are few things about it you may not have known before :

  • Under the Trilateral Transit and Transport Agreement of 2016, the Chabahar port is the gateway to the Transport Corridor between India, Iran and Afghanistan, which allows multi-modal goods’ and passengers’ transport.

Also Read: India and Iran sign agreement to develop Chabahar Port

  • The agreement also states that India will develop and operate two berths in the first phase of the port. The contract is for 10 years and extendable. This time period excludes the first two years as they will be used for construction.
Chabahar Port will make India's trade with Afghanistan easier. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port will make India’s trade with Afghanistan easier. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Chabahar Port’s first phase, which was developed by India, and inaugurated by Iran on 4th December 2017, is of great strategic importance as it makes it easier for India to conduct trade with Central Asia and Europe.
  • Iran’s Chabahar port is also important for India’s trade because of Pakistan’s reluctance in allowing India to send goods to Iran and Afghanistan through its land territory.

Also Read: Gwadar Port: China Turning Pakistan Port Into Regional Giant 

  • The development of Chabahar Port will increase the momentum of the International North-South Transport Corridor whose signatories include India, Afghanistan and Russia. Iran is the key gateway in this project. It will improve India’s trade with Central Asia as well as Europe.
    The Chabahar Port has also reduced Afghanistan’s dependence on the transit road, which went through Karachi. Now, trade can be conducted via Chabahar Port too. Islamabad has accused India of trying to use this development as a means to destabilise Pakistan.

    The Chabar Port is the said to be the counter to the Gwadar Port. Wikimedia Commons
    The Chabar Port is the said to be the counter to the Gwadar Port. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Chabahar Port also acts as a counter to the barely 100 km away, Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is developed by China. However, Iran has defended that Chabahar is not a rival to Gwadar and Pakistan is invited to join in its development.
  • In October 2017, India sent its first shipment of wheat to through Chabahar to Afghanistan, in order to test the viability of the route.
  • India will also construct a 900-km Chabahar-Zahedan-hajigak railway line that will connect Port of Chabahar to Hajigak in Afghanistan. It will also connect Mashad in the north, providing access to Turkmenistan as well as northern Afghanistan.This project is worth $1.6 billion.

    India will supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehrain. Wikimedia Commons
    India will supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehran. Wikimedia Commons
  • It is being said that India will supply $400 million of steel rails to Tehran. There are also possibilities of setting up a fertilizer plant through a joint venture with the Iranian government.