The migration crisis similar to the one Europe experienced in 2015 shall not be repeated at any price, concluded the participants of the ministerial conference “Facing the migration challenges in the region”, which was held in Sarajevo on Thursday.
“We cannot approach this crisis and the problem separately, in order to avoid the negative experiences of 2015, when the data was exchanged between countries, nothing was alarming in any country, and then one day at the station in Bucharest appeared five to six thousand migrants. We all need to be warned about the problem and return to real facts, watch things as they are and not allow the crisis to be repeated,” the SDS member and Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dragan Mektić said.
According to him, it is necessary that each country creates its own database of biometric data, which must be compatible with the similar bases in the region and, at the end, compatible with that in the EU. It will enable officers to check whether some of the migrants have previously stayed in Europe, whether someone had already applied for asylum and under what name.
“When it comes to the registration itself and biometric data, we will see as much as possible at this moment that we, from the Balkans, become part of the joint activities of FRONTEX, as we are still at some stage of signing an operational agreement with that European border agency,” Mektić told reporters in Sarajevo.
He added that it is very important that all countries respect bilateral and all other agreements on the return of migrants based on readmission. In this way, it should be shown and made aware that abuse of any country on the migrant route will not be allowed.
He said that he was surprised by the information he had heard from his Greek colleague that Greece returns more migrants to Albania than vice versa, which, in his opinion, indicates that the problem is in Albania and that these migrants were not found, which means that the system on the border between these the two countries is not working efficiently.
BiH Minister for Human Rights and Refugees, Semiha Borovac, said that BiH must create all the conditions to provide humanitarian aid to migrants who have already entered the country, but that the aid must be provided in specific places that will controlled by the authorities.
Borovac concluded that one of BiH’s priorities should be the opening of accommodation capacities, as it was the case with Salakovac camp, which is an example that migrants there could get all the necessary assistance.
State Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Slovenia, Boštjan Šefic, said that his country has been following the migration crisis since 2015. They noticed some changes last year and warned that there is high probability that a new route will appear.
“Unfortunately, our prognosis came out to be real and, since November of last year, I have seen that the number of illegal migrants coming from Greece, through Albania, Montenegro and BiH is increasing. We think that it is high time that we control the situation, because only in co-ordinated action we can keep the migration under control”, Šefic stressed.
He said that one of the conclusions of the Wednesday meeting in Brdo near Kranj, the director of police agencies in the region, was that it was necessary to establish open and constant communication between all police agencies in the wider region, as well as in the EU, with the aim to ensure that the data could be used and that each country would do and take all the measures it is in charge of.
“The conclusion of this meeting is that the migration to the EU’s external borders should be stopped, that the return of migrants to their countries should be strengthened and better organised, and that it is necessary to include the countries of the Western Balkans”, Šefic explained.
According to him, the big problem is the abuse of asylum systems, and that it is the reason that there is a situation where a large number of migrants do not need international protection, and those who need to – are waiting because asylum systems are overburdened. Šefic stressed that it is necessary to provide concrete assistance to all countries that are on the “route”, and this does not mean financial, but also material, equipment and experienced staff.
Austrian Criminal Police Director, Franc Lang, said that he had known about an idea to set up certain centres outside the EU that would register migrants and where they will wait for the conclusion of the asylum procedure, for three years.
“Countries such as Egypt and Ukraine were mentioned, because the idea was to keep the centres closer to the source of migration,” Lang said.
The head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in BiH, Peter Van der Auweraert, said that it is crucial that all countries in the region respond jointly to this situation.
He added that it is also very important to improve everything that Bosnia and Herzegovina is already working on to solve the problems that it faced within and due to this crisis.
“The state BiH has been investing for some time in response to the humanitarian needs created by the migrant crisis. The state has invested heavily in accommodation capacities and in improving the situation at the border. Therefore, I see this turning to joint work as one important turning point in that what the state has already done so far“, Auweraert noted… / IBNA