Strengthened border controls on the Western Balkan route

Strengthened border controls are expected in Austria, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro as the number of new refugees coming through continues to rise.

These countries aim to stop the migration flow and accept only the number of asylum-seekers that they can support through official procedures.

These measures will affect refugees’ movement across the region.

Here’s what you should know.

Austria

Austria plans to deploy about 1,000 members of police and armed forces near the Slovenian border at Spielfeld on Monday, June 25. It will be a one-day border patrol exercise to prove that their troops can defend the country’s frontiers.

Earlier in June, the Director of Austria's Criminal Police Office, Franz Lang, claimed that there could be some 80,000 asylum-seekers currently making their way through the region towards Western Europe.

Austria’s conservative leader, Sebastian Kurz, said his government's priority is to tighten up Europe's border and fight illegal immigration, including creating asylum centers outside the EU bloc.

The country is ready to act if they view neighboring Balkans nations are not able to control of the situation. Blocking the Austrian frontiers, however, will have a domino effect and cause border closures in other countries along the Western Balkan route.

Croatia

Croatia already increased the police presence along its border with Bosnia and Herzegovina in May. Croatia’s President, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, said they will do everything to stop this migration and are prepared to help Bosnia too.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

If Austria seals its border with Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina will have to close its own borders with Serbia and Montenegro, the Director of the Foreigners’ Service of Bosnia, Slobodan Ujic, has warned.

On June 18, the Independent Board of the Parliamentary Assembly, a body in charge of the police called for an immediate action to deploy at least 200 more police officers on its borders.

To fully secure the 1,551-kilometre-long border, the forces need more resources, the spokesperson of the border police, Sanela Dujkovic, said.

The authorities have registered over 6,000 people since the beginning of 2018, accordingly to the Council of Ministers.

The Bosnian border forces now carefully check all freight vehicles and trains arriving from Serbia and Montenegro.

Montenegro

Montenegro has sought a status agreement with Frontex. If approved by 28 EU member states, this agreement will allow Frontex to carry out operational activities on Montenegro’s maritime border with Italy and on the short land border with Croatia.

However, most of its land borders are with non-EU states: Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Montenegro is also considering building a razor wire fence on its border with Albania to reduce the influx of people into the EU. Hungary offered to help.

Cover photo © Reuters/Antonio Bronic