Western Balkans as a migrants’ crossroadsMigration 26 March 2023
Estimated time of reading: ~ 4 minutes
Western Balkans region has been a significant transit route for migrants on their way to Western Europe for several years. This migration flow has been of particular interest to the European Union (EU), which has been closely monitoring the situation and working to address the challenges presented by the movement of people through the region.
In this article, we will explore the Western Balkans route in the context of Western Balkans’ aspiration to join the EU, the challenges faced by migrants, and the response of the EU and local authorities. The Western Balkans migration route is a pathway used by migrants traveling from the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa to reach Western Europe. These individuals are often fleeing conflict, persecution, and economic hardship in their home countries.
One of the key drivers of migration through the Western Balkans is the economic disparities between Western and Eastern Europe. Many migrants see Europe as a place where they can find work and build a better life for themselves and their families. The EU’s enlargement policy, which aims to bring the Western Balkans countries into the Union, is seen as a significant opportunity by these individuals. EU membership would provide them with greater economic opportunities, social protections, and human rights. However, the Western Balkans’ route presents a significant challenge for the EU, which has struggled to manage the flow of people through the region.
The EU has implemented several measures to address the situation, including providing financial assistance to local authorities, strengthening border management, and supporting the establishment of reception centers. These efforts have had some success, but the situation remains challenging. One of the key challenges faced by migrants on the Western Balkans route is the lack of legal pathways for them to enter Europe. Many migrants are forced to rely on smugglers and traffickers to make the journey, putting them at significant risk of exploitation and abuse. This situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the closure of borders and the suspension of many migration routes. As a result, many migrants have become stranded in the region, unable to continue their journey or return home. Another challenge is the lack of adequate support for migrants once they arrive in the Western Balkans.
The reception centers established by local authorities are often overcrowded and lack basic facilities, such as healthcare and sanitation. Migrants also face significant social and economic barriers, including discrimination, language barriers, and difficulties in accessing education and employment opportunities. These challenges can make it difficult for migrants to integrate into local communities and can lead to social tensions and conflicts.
The EU has recognized the importance of addressing these challenges and has implemented a range of measures to support the Western Balkans region. These measures include providing financial assistance to local authorities to improve reception conditions and strengthen border management, as well as supporting the establishment of legal pathways for migrants to enter Europe. The EU has also worked to strengthen its partnerships with the Western Balkans countries, with the aim of supporting their accession to the Union. However, more needs to be done to address the challenges faced by migrants on the Western Balkans route.
The EU and its member states must work together to develop a comprehensive and coordinated approach to migration management in the region. This approach should prioritize the protection of the human rights of migrants, including their right to asylum and the right to access basic services. It should also focus on the development of legal pathways for migrants to enter Europe and the strengthening of partnerships with the Western Balkans countries.
Written by: Nenad Stekić