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Migration Movements on the Western Balkans Route

The movement trend of persons who try to cross or have crossed a state border illegally largely depends on the economic, political and social situation in the world.

Due to the conflicts in the north of Africa and the Middle East, especially in the area of Afghanistan and Syria, the trend of this issue is significantly increasing for the past several years. The aforementioned conflicts also generated the largest wave of refugees in recent history, known as the “Europe’s migration crisis“. During the migration crisis in 2015 and 2016, over a million people arrived to the European Union. The main entry route was the Western Balkan route.

The Western Balkan route, geographically located in the centre of Europe, has always been the main transit hub between Western Europe and the Middle East, so it is not surprising that it is also one of the main migration routes to the European Union. Although the European Union undertook a series of activities, which primarily relate to saving lives, reducing the wave, protecting borders, cooperating with countries of origin in the fight against smugglers and providing humanitarian aid to those most in need, the migration pressure did not stop, although it was significantly reduced compared to the migration wave.

Irregular border crossings in 2022. Source: FRONTEX

An important transit point in most illegal migration is Turkey, where around 3.6 million refugees are currently located. The recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria has further strained Turkey’s capacities and resources for caring for refugees, and the question arises whether and for how long Turkey will be able to care for refugees on its territory.

Although there is a high probability that the migration crisis from 2015 and 2016 will not happen again, the pressure of illegal migration on the Western Balkan route is still very much present. To a significant extent to this contribute organizations associated with people smuggling who often use the misfortune of people in need for their personal gain.

Considering the speed and increasing emergence of new modus operandi of migration movements, we have to ask ourselves what challenges migration movements will bring us in the future. The European Union has established a joint integrated model of risk analysis applied by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency and member states whose purpose is to identify risks for the external border of the European Union and is the basis for making informed decisions on risk mitigation. The implementation of the Model using the capabilities offered by artificial intelligence creates new opportunities for risk identification and assessment.

A big step forward in this direction makes precisely the CRiTERIA project, which, in addition to the implementation of the existing model, also goes a step further by tackling internal security to a certain extent and placing great emphasis on the protection of human lives and fundamental rights. Modern IT capabilities will significantly contribute to the detection of the origins and hot spots of not only migratory movements, but also cross-border crime and the identification of vulnerabilities of the migrants or victims of smuggling on the route, so that the necessary measures could be taken in a timely manner to mitigate risks or take care of vulnerable groups.

MUP - Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Croatia

MUP - Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Croatia

The Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Croatia (MUP) is one of the core application partners in the CRiTERIA project. MUP brings in their know how, experience and demands into the requirements for the CRiTERIA risk and vulnerability analysis methodology and technology.

Banner image by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.