Hundreds of thousands of Asian and African migrants are prepared to risk everything to reach western Europe. Many take the so-called Mediterranean route, over tough terrain through the Balkans. That path takes them through a handful of countries.
CGTN’s Aljosa Milenkovic followed a group of migrants on their journey.
Dozens of migrants walk on the side of the road along a beautiful route through the town of Bihac. Their improvised camp is close to the town’s city center. there is still an hour to go before lunchtime, but many have already started lining up.
These migrants don’t have much help. They often pray for nice weather to continue.
“Over the last few days, higher pressure is felt on the Bosnia and Herzegovina borders with Croatia and Montenegro,” Mijo Kresic, Deputy Security Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina said. “That migrant route is very active. It’s obvious the migrants and smugglers want to transfer as many people as possible before the winter.”
Bihac is a place where the increasing pressure on the country is very visible. Hundreds of migrants are living in the city in the makeshift camp. Most of them are single males from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and North African countries. They are waiting for an adequate moment to try to illegally cross the border into Croatia.
Migrants often try to enter into Croatia around the Izaccic border crossing. Local police officers do their best to prevent them, but they’re overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of migrants.
“During all of last year, we had 80 cases of attempted illegal border crossings by migrants,” Border Police Local Commander Refik Sabotic said. “This year it’s hundreds of cases. We’ve caught only seven, out of around 800 people that tried to illegally cross the border.”
The Bosnian police are just one hurdle for migrants trying to reach western Europe. They have much stricter Croatian and Slovenian police ahead in the journey. Those officers are trying to protect the European Union borders.
Many migrants turn to alternative solutions to beat the E.U. immigration system.
“We have about eight or nine-percent, self-declared Palestinians, about seven-percent, self-declared Libyans, and 20-percent, self-declared Syrians,” explained Peter Van Der Auweraert, a representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina to the International Organization for Migration.
“I would say that, in that category, maybe roughly 70 percent are actually not from those countries, because people there are usually North Africa, from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and they self-declared as Syrians because they believe that will give them special status.”
The rapid rise in the number of migrants in Bihac, coupled with a rough terrain that’s impossible to seal, means this immigration route will stay open for quite some time.