Ukrainian refugees in the Western Balkans


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Unlike Poland, which has received more than 1.6 million Ukrainian refugees, there is no major pressure on migrant reception centers in the Western Balkans. This article will briefly present the figures and trends of the wave of migrants from Ukraine to the Western Balkans.

Seven women and five children who fled from Ukraine are accommodated in the reception center in Vranje in the south of Serbia, and another group of Ukrainian refugees is expected, the Beta agency reported on March 14. The Commissariat for Refugees and Migration announced on March 12 that the first refugees from Ukraine were placed in the center in Vranje, which is designated for people from the war-affected areas of that country. Four families have been accommodated, and these are women with children who came from Kiev, Donbas and other places in Ukraine, the Commissariat stated on its website.

Agency Anadoly reports that according to an official on Thursday, about 2,500 of the 12,500 Ukrainian migrants who have entered Serbia since the conflict began remained in February and the first half of March. According to Nikola Sakan of the Commissariat for Refugees, the great majority of refugees – the bulk of them are women with children – are in transit. “We give out booklets in Ukrainian with our phone number and email address, which they can call at any time of day or night if they have a problem or need more information,” Sakan explained. About 30 people are staying at centers run by the commissariat, mostly families with children. About 30 people, largely families with children, are staying at commissariat-run centers. This provides them with both food and a warm place to stay. According to Sakan, some families stay in Serbia with friends or relatives who advise them to contact the local authorities to record their presence. He went on to say that his crew is always on duty at the Horgos border crossing into Hungary, which borders Ukraine, and that their goal is to provide Ukrainian migrants with all the information they need about the services available in Serbia. The majority of Ukrainian refugees arrive in Serbia by private car before continuing on to Greece, Bulgaria, or Montenegro.

One of the organizations that has been active in the care of refugees from the very beginning is the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been in Ukraine since 2014 and has 600 employees. For the time being, refugees are not staying in Western Balkan countries, but are mostly going to Croatia and Montenegro, where they have real estate, the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration announced. The Serbian Red Cross and Red Cross of Montenegro have opened a dedicated account to help the citizens of Ukraine.

Miroslav Zeković, a spokesperson of the Montenegrin Ministry of Internal Affairs, told TV CG that roughly 300 Ukrainians enter Montenegro every day on average. The majority of Ukrainian refugees arrive in Montenegro via Serbia. Approximately 3,500 entered through the Dobrakovo border crossing, approximately 1,500 through Debeli Brijeg, and approximately 1,000 through the Podgorica airport. According to Zekovic, a large number of them people had already visited Montenegro for summer vacations. He claimed that 588 persons applied for temporary protection in Montenegro today, with 391 adults and 197 children among them. The government of Montenegro has agreed to provide temporary protection to those from Ukraine who are unable to return home and have been forced to flee due to conflict.

Given the devastation of war in the Western Balkans during the 1990s, all migratory crises are extremely painful for these countries. Because it is still unclear how long the Ukrainian conflict will endure, it is impossible to make forecasts regarding the number of migrants who will arrive in the Balkans.

Written by: Nenad Stekić

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