First quarterly analysis of Western Balkans published


In the first quarter of 2015 over 44 000 irregular migrants were detected crossing borders between Western Balkans countries (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, FYR Macedonia and Kosovo) and between Western Balkan countries and their EU neighbours.

It is noteworthy that of the 44 000 detected migrants, more than 27 500 were nationals of the Western Balkans.

At the EU external borders, Greek and Hungarian borders were the most affected. Albanians were the most frequently detected nationality at the Greek-Albanian border, contributing to the well-known circular migration between the two countries.  The Hungarian –Serbian border was affected by a very high influx of migrants from Kosovo* (over 20 000), who constituted over 62% of the flow. The nationalities of the remaining 38% of the migrants detected at this border corresponded closely to the nationalities of migrants who had arrived from Turkey to the Greek islands. The majority of the transiting migrants were Syrian and Afghan nationals, but there were also growing numbers of Iraqis, Pakistanis and Somalis, as well as Bangladeshi and Iranians. Upon detection, both regional and transiting migrants claimed asylum in Hungary, but few remained in the country to complete the process.

The high numbers of Afghans (over 6 000 in the first quarter of 2015), who were detected first in Greece and then in the Western Balkans can be partially explained by the changing status of Afghan migrants already living in the third countries. One contributing factor may be the expiry at the end of June 2015 of resident visas of over 500 000 Afghans currently living in Iran. It is unclear how many will have their visas renewed given the plans of the Iranian government to repatriate foreigners living on its territory.  Another important development is the tightening of labour laws in Saudi Arabia, where many Afghans work. All these factors, combined with the uncertain security situation in Afghanistan, contribute to the movement of nationals of Afghanistan towards the EU.

The increased flow of migrants arriving in Greece and continuing their journey via the Western Balkans fuels the development of people smuggling networks in the region. Between January and March, over 500 facilitators were detected, which constitutes a slight increase from the previous quarter. Over 70% of these facilitators were nationals of Western Balkan countries, in particular Serbia.

As in 2014, Kosovo citizens and nationals of the visa exempt Western Balkan countries (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, FYR Macedonia) continued to apply for international protection in the EU, in particular in Germany, despite very low chances of being granted asylum.

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on the status of territory, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.