Some 300 Middle East and Asian migrants marched through Belgrade on Friday, reportedly headed for Hungary, to press demands for passage to western Europe.
Serbia’s social affairs minister Aleksandar Vulin said up to 3,000 migrants were stranded in the country, as neighboring countries had shut down their borders and the EU had been unable to find a joint solution.
Last year, 650,000 migrants passed through Serbia along the Balkan route, much of which is now largely closed.
Italy trying to spread the load
The man in charge of the Italian interior ministry’s immigration portfolio, Mario Morcone, said Italy was stuck with 135,000 asylum seekers but that it was also trying to spread the load “with dignity” among its municipalities at a rate of two or three migrants per 1,000 residents.
Morcone told a press conference that Italy was no longer a transit country due to border controls imposed by France, Switzerland and Austria. The EU relocation program, adopted last September, had “clearly failed,” he said.
Migrant boat tragedy
Arrivals in Italy this week totaled more than 3,700. On Friday, it emerged that a boat with 200 migrants onboard, 22 of whom were dead, had reached Trapani in Sicily.
They had drowned on board in a pool of water and fuel during a stampede. Survivors were rescued by vessels from two non-governmental charities.
“How many more lives will have to be lost at sea before people in need of assistance and protection are provided with a safer alternative?” asked Jens Pagotto, the head of rescue operations at Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
From Geneva, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it had recorded 2,977 migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea since January – or around 20 a day – despite efforts to stem departures, especially from Libya.
IOM spokesman Joel Millman said flows of migrants from Greece and Turkey along the Balkan route into central Europe had “almost disappeared.”
Bulgaria braced for surge
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said Friday his country was bracing for a potential rush of migrants along its southern border adjacent to Turkey after that country’s coup attempt and subsequent purge by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Bulgarian patrols had intercepted 150 to 200 migrants a day, he said. Few wanted to stay in such an impoverished nation, preferring instead to continue onward to Germany and Sweden.
Camp dismantled in northern Paris
In northern Paris on Friday, police dismantled a tented camp underneath an elevated railway, where 1,200 migrants from Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan had been living. Buses were due to take them to centers elsewhere in France.
French immigration spokesman Didier Leschi said some migrants still intended to seek asylum in other European countries.
Others had already been granted asylum in France “but cannot find work and don’t know where to live” said Leschi.
In May, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo announced plans to set up a refugee camp with proper facilities by September.
Calais remains a destination for many – despite past police interventions – in the hope of stowing away on trucks bound for Britain.
Pierre Henry, the head of the French charity Terre d’Asile, called on “all the regional capitals” in France to offer accommodation centers.
Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary – one of four “Visegrad” nations insisting on border protection instead of EU reallocations – is expected Saturday to pitch his anti-migrant policy while visiting ethnic Hungarians in Romania.