NGO statement ahead of the EU-Western Balkans Summit of 17 May 2018

On Thursday 17 May, EU Heads of State are meeting their counterparts from the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo) to discuss cooperation in several areas, including migration and security. Following increased arrivals of refugees and migrants to both the Western Balkans and the EU, the issue of border control has gained prominence, resulting in more investments and cooperation agreements between the EU and Western Balkan countries. At the same time refugees and migrants, including children and other vulnerable groups, are facing serious risks in the Western Balkans and in the EU including violence, repeated pushbacks and collective expulsions. In November 2017 a 6-year old girl lost her life after being pushed back from Croatia into Serbia. The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency mentioned access to the territory as a persistent challenge in its February report on migration, reporting ill treatment by border officials, including physical violence in Bulgaria, Croatia and Hungary. Repeated pushbacks were also reported at the Hungarian border. Protecting borders should not come at the expense of protecting people. Ahead of the Western Balkan Summit we call on Heads of States in the EU and in the Western Balkans to address the following concerns and recommendations:

  1. Respect for the right to claim asylum
  2. Humane border management and support for victims of trafficking
  3. Safe and regular pathways
  4. Funding for humane and fair asylum systems and integration
  5. Protect civil society organisations working with refugees and migrants

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