The growing number of refugees and immigrants who use less famous Western Balkan route, through which are trying to reach Europe, face major risks, including abuse, violence and accidents while moving on railroad tracks, warns United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
UN Refugee Agency yesterday announced that there is a big increase in the number of men, women and children who walk for days along this route, which is less in the spotlight than those that cross the Mediterranean Sea.
“The situation is particularly severe in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where refugees and immigrants follow the railroad tracks, walking for days, exposed to rail accidents, natural disasters and the abuse and threats from traffickers and criminal gangs,” said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards at the meeting with journalists in Geneva.
According to UNHCR, the number of people who expressed their intention to seek asylum in the Western Balkans between 2012 and 2014 increased from 5,000 to 20,000.
This year, there is an unprecedented increase in this figure. Only in Serbia, there were over 22,000 applications for asylum in the first five month of this year, which is six times more than the same period last year. In May, 10,000 new asylum seekers were registered by the local authorities.
“Our estimates are that almost identical number of people who need international protection, move illegally across the region, with the help of smugglers. Most of them are trying to get through Hungary to Western Europe,” added Edwards.
Most of the immigrants who move along this route are from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia, and usually come to Europe through Greece.