Movement of migrants through the Western Balkans has intensified in 2018 and peaked in May, a recent report from the International Organisation for Migration said. The report also shows some new tendencies in the refugee flow. Whereas Serbia was in previous years accomodating vast majority of refugees and migrants who would then enter Hungary, migrants and refugees from the Middle East and North Africa are increasingly using the new route from Greece through Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina to EU member state Croatia. Between January and May 2018, the report states, the authorities in Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania reported the arrival of 7,402 new migrants and refugees. In May alone their number was 2,838, constituting the highest figure reported since the beginning of the year.

More than a half of migrants and refugees were registered in Bosnia and Herzegovina – a total of 4,841. There were estimated 520 new migrants and refugees arriving in the country every week. Almost half of all individuals registered in Bosnia and Herzegovina this year were from Pakistan (22%) and Syrian Arab Republic (22%) followed by those who declared Afghan (14%), Iranian (10%) and Iraqi (8%) nationality. The Bosnian authorities have already adopted an emergency measures plan to address the needs of the refugees and migrants. They have opened a refugee centre in Salakovac that was able to host 269 refugees. However, many of the migrants are still living in tents in Bosnia’s parks and the situation resembles the one in Serbia back in 2015.

“Many refugees and migrants sleep on the streets, in abandoned buildings, and in fields without adequate shelter, sanitation, food, or medical care. Local civil society and government actors are struggling to provide food, shelter and assistance” IOM said in the report.

In Albania, there were 1,199 migrants and refugees registered this year, while in Montenegro they were 1,362. Among the three countries, only the authorities in Albania reported a decrease in arrivals in May, from 293 reported in April to 147 reported in May. However, the reason for the declining number seems the fact that more migrants are moving towards Montenegro.

Photo: Rusty Clark (CC BY 2.0)