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Thousands of migrants stuck in Serbia

Tensions are rising in the Balkans as Serbian authorities announced on Friday they had removed dozens of migrants from the streets of the capital, Belgrade.

By Stefan J. Bos, Vatican News Correspondent

Tensions are rising in the Balkans on the day the U.N.'s migration agency announced that 90 people apparently drowned after a smuggler's boat carrying mostly Pakistani migrants capsized off Libya's coast.

Thousands of migrants who survived dangerous journeys remain trapped in Serbia where security forces removed dozens of migrants from the streets of Belgrade.

Serbian authorities said Friday that the migrants, who are believed to have fled war and poverty, were transferred to migrant centers.

Officials claimed there were no incidents during the early Friday raid in the Serbian capital. But an estimated 4,000 migrants remain stuck in Serbia trying to move on towards wealthier European Union nations.

Crisis emerging


As winter sets in, many of them are waiting to be allowed to cross into neighboring Hungary and enter the EU legally, with no money and no way back.

Febul Rahbari says her family left Afghanistan in 2016 after war broke out in her area.  "I cannot go illegally (into Hungary). It is difficult. Where should I go with these two small kids?  I don't know where my husband is. I don't know if he is alive or not. I don't know," she said, her voice trembling.

But it remains to be seen when and if she can enter the EU. Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán confirmed Friday that he remains opposed to the more pro-migration policies of the United Nations.

His government erected anti-migration fences along Hungary's borders with Serbia and Croatia, backed by thousands of security forces including feared border hunters.

And aid workers say many people lost identity documents while crossing seas, further complicating their attempts to start a new life in Europe.

"In cooperation with police in Serbia and the government we are giving them ID cards," pledged Safet Resulbegvic an official of Serbia's Subotica Refugee Camp.  "So this way they can have at least some documents or some papers showing their address and which country they belong to," he explained..

But with many waiting to enter Hungary for more than a year, several migrants have been trying to illegally cross the borders with EU nations Hungary and Croatia with the help of smugglers.

Since 2015, millions of desperate people crossed into the EU. But with several borders now closed many are stuck in transit nations.

Report by Stefan Bos
02 February 2018, 16:56