“We have a fence of show on the Southern border for the politicians to drag forward every time they wish to claim that they do everything in their powers to protect Hungary and Europe. However even the official statistical data shows that 80% of the people who arrive by the Balkan route go on forward to West Europe via the fenced Serbian-Hungarian border. Their numbers have been growing rapidly in the past few months” — says Siewert András, the operations director of Migration Aid. According to the official Serbian statistics there were 1.017 new asylum seekers who have entered the country from Bulgaria or Macedonia, making it the month with the highest number this year. In the same time UNHCR’s data shows that between the residents of Serbian refugee reception centres counted only 350 more people. This continues the trends of the last months: while the number of arrivals is growing, the numbers of those staying in the reception centres is relatively dropping. Where do these people vanish into? “Part of them goes on to Romania to cross the Hungarian-Romanian border in Austria’s direction. But the number of people arriving to Romania is way smaller than those who leave Serbia” — he continued.
The sheet below shows how the refugee numbers have been forming in Serbia in 2017.
The operation director of Migration Aid went on by these lines: “We were also wondering where those thousands have vanished from Serbia. On the Western Balkan route the smugglers from Turkey and Greece are taking people to Serbia, this is where they show up in the statistics. They are mostly brought through Bulgaria and Macedonia on vehicles, but there are families who walked through Macedonia on foot. There are those who try their luck with the official method upon their arrival to Serbia and apply for asylum in the transits on the Serbian-Hungarian border. Hungarian authorities take every opportunity to make this process slower.
We have been investigating a bit in the past weeks, we talked to families we knew previously from Serbia or from the transits. We came to the conclusion that in the summer there was a rumour spreading in the transit zones that the official process is not worth waiting for. One reason for this is because the Hungarian authorities turn down almost all asylum applications, the other reason is that it became much more easier to get through Hungary by smugglers then it was before. Relying on these rumours there were hundreds since summer who have left the transit zones voluntarily, although most of them had to wait for a year in Serbia for the chance to get in, and then spent months in the transits.”
And what happens to those who leave the transits on their own accord? Siewert András thinks they are already in Germany or an other West European country. “We have asked the families where they were taken by the smugglers. To Croatia? Through Romania? No, almost everyone of them were taken through the fenced Serbian-Hungarian border. According to the statistics there were thousands like this.”
Every detail shows that there is a huge and efficient smuggling network on the Serbia-Hungary-Austria-Germany route. How is it possible to move hundreds or even a thousand people through the fenced Schengen border between Serbia and Hungary every month without being seen?
As the operations director puts it: “The so-called technical border closing is not only a fence. Integral parts of it are surveillance techniques, police and military patrols and the so-called long-range border patrolling. Immigration and frontier-guarding laws were changed multiple times since 2015 without any sense of a broader conception. Let us show two examples. Route 55, which is parallel with the Southern border, is a high priority route of human trafficking, it has to be crossed if you come through the border between the two rivers, Danube and Tisza, making it a priority for long-range border patrolling too: it had police checkpoints at 10-20 km intervals constantly filtering the vehicles suitable for smuggling. Starting from March 2016 these checkpoints were slowly wound up until you could only seldom find a checkpoint on this 120 km long route. As another outcome of the changes made in the relevant legislation people who were suspected of unauthorized border crossing — if they were caught anywhere in the country — were police simply escorted back to the fence by the police without any investigation, which deprived the authorities from lots of valuable information about the activities of the smugglers. The staff of the police force at the fence is constantly replaced from everywhere around the country, sometimes they seemingly don’t even know which planet they are on, they have zero local knowledge. They just try to survive those few weeks they have to stay and get back home as soon as possible. There’s one more instance which shows remarkably the undue haste of the authorities: so-called border-fighters receive a 6-month training, but our experiences show that they aren’t even familiar with the legislation regarding the state borders and border patrols. I simply don’t understand, why they don’t use night vision drones in the vicinity of the borders to eliminate smuggling. Randomly catching a vehicle in the country or voluntary rangers of Ásotthalom running into a group walking in the woods won’t do much good. The routes could be tracked by drones and then it would be possible to intercept the incoming immigrants only after establishing a connection with the smugglers. Irregular migration won’t be stopped by a fence, only by eliminating organized criminal smuggling.”
In the first 10 months of 2017 more than 73 thousand Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan citizens applied for asylum in Germany. People from these three countries generally arrive to West Europe via the Western Balkan route, while people from the African countries come through the Mediterranean and arrive to the EU in Italy or Spain. As there are only about 800 people who were granted any kind of status by the Hungarian state, this is the maximum number of people who could get to Germany legally through Hungary. On the other hand statistics show that they cross Hungary in tens of thousands illegally, using smugglers. Why don’t they use the Croatia-Slovenia-Austria route, which was the primary route between October 2015 and March 2016?
The opinion of Siewert András on this matter: “The fact that criminal organizations are able to smuggle through the country this kind of multitude can only mean one of two things: either the police and national security forces are working very inefficiently, or they are turning a blind eye to it on political orders. The latter has a precedent: between 15 September and 15 October 2015 the Hungarian state hauled about 180 thousand people form the Serbian border to the Austrian border without any control of travel documents or security check. This evidently was smuggling performed by the state. One can only hope that the anti-Western sentiment is only a political rhetoric, that the government doesn’t take active part in weakening the EU by allowing illegal migration, and I dare not to think that any group close to the power may profit from this. Or even more frighteningly the whole business was handed over to the Russian secret services to let them use Hungary for this purpose…”