BELGRADE (AP) — The European Union’s top security official on Thursday praised Serbia’s handling of migration through the country, which sits at the heart of the Balkan route to Europe and borders several countries EU members.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson also thanked EU candidate country Serbia for moving to align the country’s visa policies with those of the bloc. Johansson traveled to the Serbia-Hungary border and planned to meet with senior government officials.
“My visit here today is to show the commitment of the European Union to strengthen our partnership with Serbia, to support Serbia,” he said.
The day before, Serbian authorities arrested nearly 700 migrants in various parts of the country and transferred them to reception centres. Photos released by police showed abandoned makeshift tents and people standing in groups.
Authorities have carried out several such raids in recent months, saying the aim was to combat human trafficking and improve security.
Serbian Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic said authorities had prevented 881 illegal border crossings with Hungary so far this year, where Serbian police patrol with teams from Frontex, the European agency for borders.
Hungary erected a barbed wire fence along the border with Serbia in 2016 after more than a million refugees, asylum seekers and migrants entered Europe. Many people seeking to reach Europe without legal authorization pay thousands of euros to smugglers to take them on often dangerous journeys.
A new cooperation agreement between the EU and Serbia will allow Frontex to join Serbian police patrols on the country’s borders with non-EU countries such as North Macedonia and Bosnia, Johansson said.
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