Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Migrant Smuggling Market in Balkans Worth €50 Million

ZAGREB, 11 May, 2021 - The migrant smuggling market in the Western Balkans is worth at least €50 million a year, says a report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, describing Serbia as an important destination for migrants because it borders with four EU member states.

The report notes that Serbian police have discovered several tunnels, three to seven metres deep and up to 30 metres long, under the wire fence along the Serbia-Hungary border near the Hungarian town of Szeged and village of Ásotthalom and the Serbian village of Kelebija.

The tunnels are considered relatively risky due to the possibility of arrest and the danger of them collapsing. The smugglers' fees range from €500 to 5,000.

This is much less than during the 2015 migrant however statistics show that the regional market for migrant smuggling is still large regardless of attempts to close the so-called Balkan migrant smuggling route, says the Global Initiative, an international network fighting acquisition of illegal gain and crime.

Quoting Voice of America, the Belgrade media reported about the report, which focuses on the flows of people, drugs and money in the Western Balkans.

Using maps and analyses helps identify key entry and exit points for migrant smuggling through six Western Balkan countries, as well as locations that serve as drug smuggling hubs. Not even the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have disrupted illicit flows, says the Global Initiative.

Its report identifies Serbia as an important destination for asylum-seekers and migrants because the country borders with four EU members - Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

The report quotes data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under which in 2019, 30,216 migrants entered Serbia, almost twice as many as in 2018. The report also quotes data from the Serbian Ministry of the Interior under which in 2020 more than 8,500 migrants were prevented from illegally crossing the Serbian border.



Wednesday, 14 November 2018

UNHCR on How Croatian Bureaucracy is Rendering Some People Stateless

November 14, 2018 - While some foreigners may be having issues with Croatian bureaucracy getting residence permits, UNHCR has highlighted two cases where it has made people stateless.

We have featured several frustrated stories in the unwinnable battle with Croatian bureaucracy in recent weeks, particularly with regard to foreigners who are having difficulty getting residence permits, but a recent UNHCR article focuses on two cases where the failings of Croatian bureaucracy actually rendered two men stateless, despite the fact they have lived and worked in Croatia for decades. 

Boro Topolic, 63, came to Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1975, has worked hard all his life and never been in trouble. After working much of his life as a welder in the shipyards of Split and Rijeka, he now drives a taxi. All was fine until he tried to buy the apartment he rented in a municipal block back in 2014. Already in possession of Croatian permanent residency and a BiH passport, he was informed that he had to be a Croatian citizen to be able to own the property. He was assured that this would be no problem, but he was required to renounce his BiH citizenship, which he did. 

And then yes - you guessed it - despite those assurances, having renounced his Bosnian citizenship, he then was refused citizenship by Croatia, leaving him stateless. Unable to reclaim his Bosnian citizenship, he now has a stateless person's Croatian passport, which allows him to travel, but he must apply for a visa for Serbia, for example. 

Bedri, 56, was born in Kosovo and came to Croatia to work at the age of 17, back in 1979. He was conscripted to help the Croatian Army as a skilled civilian repairing vehicles during the Homeland War and applied for Croatian citizenship at that time. He was refused on the grounds that he was Albanian, even though he has never been to Albania in his life. According to UNHCR, he has been unable to work or get benefits for 25 years and lives in room in an abandoned house in Novska, tapping into the neighbours' electricity, relying on them for food handouts and showers. 

To read the full story, visit the UNHCR website.