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PACE rapporteur on migration transit countries, ending Western Balkans visit, urges greater international co-operation

Following her visit to “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Serbia and Slovenia from 10 to 13 November to see at first hand the situation of refugees and migrants in transit, Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC) has expressed her appreciation for the efforts of state authorities, international organisations and civil society organisations in providing basic protection to the unprecedented numbers of people crossing the Western Balkans.

“I encourage all the affected countries of the Western Balkans to continue regulating the refugees' and migrants' transit, as this reduces the hardship and risks they must endure and keeps them out of the hands of migrant smugglers. I strongly discourage these countries from closing their borders, which would only cause far greater harm and distress to the refugees and migrants, risk serious public disorder and damage relations between neighbouring states,” said Ms Strik.

“These countries' efforts to protect the refugees and migrants and regulate their transit are placing enormous strain on their budgetary and human resources. The number of arrivals shows no sign of falling and the imminent cold weather means additional efforts are needed to prepare reception and accommodation facilities for winter. The EU must provide prompt and sufficient support to all the affected states; distinctions between member and non-member states must not lead to this assistance being either too late or too little,” she continued.

“Timely sharing of accurate and reliable information between all of the countries concerned and careful co-ordination of their entry and exit controls are of vital importance to orderly regulation of the overall flow. In the same way, Europe as a whole must work on a common approach, starting with effective implementation of measures already agreed upon, especially increased accommodation capacity, hotspots for identification, registration and preliminary processing and immediate relocation of all those clearly in need of international protection,” concluded the rapporteur.

Ms Strik visited the Western Balkans as a follow-up to her report on “Transit countries: meeting new migration and asylum challenges”, which led the Assembly in September to adopt Resolution 2073 (2015). During her visit, she met government ministers, parliamentarians and senior officials of the national authorities of the countries concerned, visited registration and reception facilities at Gevgelija in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Presevo in Serbia and Sentilj in Slovenia, and spoke to representatives of the UNHCR, the IOM, the Red Cross and national and international NGOs. Ms Strik will report on her visit to the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons at its meeting in Paris on 15 December, when decisions on further action will be taken.