Austria, Serbia and Hungary strike migration deal, saying EU measures have failed

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By Thomas Hill  & AP  with AP
Tripartite agreement on migration signed by Hungary, Austria and Serbia.
Tripartite agreement on migration signed by Hungary, Austria and Serbia.   -   Copyright  Darko Vojinovic/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved   -  

Austria’s chancellor launched a blistering attack on EU migration measures as he signed a trilateral agreement with Serbia and Hungary to beef up Balkans border security.

The three countries met in Belgrade to sign a memorandum of understanding on the issue.

“The EU’s asylum system has failed,” declared Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer. “We have come to the point where individual EU countries are looking for new forms of partnership outside what is possible in the EU."

Nehammer said Austria could have more than 100,000 asylum requests by the end of the year, compared to around 40,000 people who applied for asylum in 2021.

Organised deportations

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his country has recorded some 250,000 attempts at illegal border crossings this year.

“We do not need to manage migration, we need to stop it,” said Orban. “We need to show them (migrants) that they cannot cross.”

Austria and Hungary also pledged to help Serbia organise deportations by plane of people who come to the Balkan nation from so-called safe countries of origin and aren't eligible for asylum in the member states of the European Union or in Serbia, officials said.

The three countries see themselves as on the frontline of the Western Balkans migrant route into the EU with illegal immigrants crossing from Turkey, Bulgaria and Macedonia into Serbia. Now, they want to shift that front line.

“We are ready to move further south together with North Macedonia and thus protect both Europe and our own country,” said Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic.

Drones and thermal vision cameras

A hundred extra security staff equipped with vehicles, thermal vision goggles and drones are being sent to the North Macedonian border as part of the new pact between the three countries.

In 2015-2016, Hungary built a razor wire fence on the border with Serbia to stop people from entering.

Experts have said that the so-called Balkan land route of migration gets more active in bad weather when the already perilous crossings over the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas become even more dangerous. Most migrants come from Afghanistan and Syria, but there are also people fleeing poverty and violence in Africa or Asia.

The migration issue has driven wedges between other EU member states. Recently Italy and France faced off in a dispute over how to handle a boat full of asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean. Italy refused to allow the vessel to dock for two weeks before the French authorities gave permission for its passengers to come ashore in Toulon.

Journalist • Thomas Hill

Video editor • Thomas Hill