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Problems persist in the Balkans

In spite of tightened border restrictions and an increasingly difficult journey, refugee arrivals to the Hungarian border have continued, and issues with smugglers persist in Macedonia. There were also reports of violent attacks and sexual assaults on refugees in Macedonia. A volunteer with MSF stated “closure of the borders will not discourage people from migration. It will just put them in a more vulnerable position and make them more exposed to smugglers.”

“the Balkan route is not closed, if it were, this topic would not be on the agenda. Minister (Aleksandar) Vulin and I were at (border crossing) Horgos last night, where the situation was the same as two days before, considering that around 100 refugees are on a hunger strike with no success at all, considering that Hungary has sealed its border hermetically.”

Nenad Ivanisevic, State Secretary in the Serbian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs

In Serbia, 3,600 refugees are currently in transit, the U.N. says; many of them hiking through sunflower fields and vineyards on their way to Hungary’s fence. These refugees journeying through Serbia face 10,000 Hungarian police and soldiers, equipped with drones, night-vision goggles, heat-seeking cameras, and helicopters waiting on the other side of the border. The aftermath of a failed coup in Turkey has put EU-Turkey deal at risk of collapsing, and stirred concerns in Bulgaria of refugees being able to pass across the 240 kilometer (150 mile) long Bulgarian-Turkish border.

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