The Serbian government has announced plans to step up border checks on refugees following the discovery that one of the terrorists involved in the Paris attack on Friday night passed through the country en-route to France. But they have refused to back away from policies aiding migrants crossing their territory, and officials have been at pains to stress that they will not allow an “anti-Muslim campaign” to take root.
As many as 10,000 migrants a day have been entering Serbia over the last month, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, determined to make their way north from Greece and Turkey into Western Europe.
Investigations by the French authorities have confirmed that one of the Paris gunmen, known only as ‘A.A.’ used this exodus of people as cover for his own movements across the continent by posing as a Syrian refugee. Arriving on the Greek island of Leros on October 3, he is now known to have travelled onwards to Serbia, registering at Serbia’s southern border crossing of Presevo on October 7, where he formally applied for asylum, Euractiv has reported.
In a statement, the Serbian Ministry of Interior announced: “Checks have revealed that his data match the data of the person identified in Greece on October 3. No Interpol arrest warrant had been issued for this person.”
Serbia’s Minister of Interior, Nebojsa Stefanovic, has told the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation (RTS) that Serbia is “stable”, as regards security, but confirmed that he would be stepping up the involvement and readiness of Serbia’s intelligence and security services.
“That means we will increase control of the migrant flow through our country in the sense of additional identification of all individuals. We will raise an additional level of readiness of the forces fighting terrorism,” he said.
However, he insisted that there was no need for Serbia to alter its policy on the migrants, and added that the government “will not allow any sort of anti-Muslim campaign.”
In contrast to its northern neighbour Hungary, Serbia has maintained a policy of facilitating the migrants with aid as they make their way through the territory, and has so far not built any form of wall or fence to stymie the migrant flow.
His words were echoed by that of Serbia’s Minister of Labour, Aleksandar Vulin, who told RTS that he did not expect any change in attitude towards refugees passing through the country in the light of the Paris attacks.
According to Vulin, some 3,000 migrants were staying in the Presevo border camp on Saturday morning, and a further 2,000 were awaiting transportation to Croatia. He insisted that Serbia was leading the way when it came to dealing with the migrants by ensuring that their needs were met whilst making sure that the Serbian peoples’ lives were not disrupted.
So far there has been little demand from Serbian parliamentarians for a change to the official migrant policy, with just one Parliamentary party, the Eurosceptic Serbian People’s Party, daring to swim against the tide. The party holds just one seat in the Parliament.
Party leader Nenad Popovic has made his views clear, however, saying that the Paris attacks were a demonstration of what awaited Europe if it continued to allow Islamic terrorists to enter its territory freely along with the migrants.
He has called for Serbia to close its southern border with Macedonia, deploy the army, and build a wall.