During recent months, hundreds of thousands of refugees have entered the countries of the Western Balkans, hoping to find protection in the European Union. The closure of the external borders of the Schengen system, symbolised by the fences built by Hungary at its borders with non-Schengen neighbours, has blocked the refugees' onward journeys. In the space of a few months, the countries affected have become first countries of transit and now countries of destination for unprecedented numbers of refugees. Their national asylum systems have been completely overwhelmed. The refugees themselves are very often unable to access adequate reception facilities or effective asylum procedures.
In order to assess the effects on the human rights of these refugees and migrants, and on the countries now hosting them, it is important to examine in detail the situation in the Western Balkans and the interaction between the countries concerned, and the European Union and its member States. This would enable the Parliamentary Assembly to make recommendations on what is needed to protect the refugees in this region and to improve the co-operation between the European Union- and non-European Union-countries concerned.