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EU Home Affairs Ministers meet in Brussels to discuss the situation on the main migration routes

Minister of the Interior Tatjana Bobnar attended an extraordinary meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels. Ministers discussed the situation on the main migration routes.

"The Western Balkan route is the most important route for us, and this year we have seen an increase in the number of illegal border crossings along this route," the Minister said in a press statement. Most migrants on the Western Balkan route travel via Serbia, Hungary to Austria and other EU countries. Part of this migration route also goes through Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia and onwards. "We would like to add that Slovenia is a transit country, which means that migrants do not stay in Slovenia," the Minister said.

"Migration is an ongoing challenge that requires all of us to find common, lasting solutions that are primarily based on tackling the root causes of migration in all countries of origin. That is why I called on the European Commission some time ago to look at what we as the EU can do in the countries of origin in terms of respect for human rights, development aid and the prevention of smuggling," the Minister stressed. These durable solutions must reduce any pull factor that leads people into danger. "Solutions must be based on safe, legal routes and solidarity," she added.

Today's discussion also focused on the Action Plan for the Western Balkans, which aims to promote the alignment of the visa policy of the Western Balkan countries with the EU regime, as already discussed by the Ministers at their last meeting in Luxembourg in October. Serbia has already done so for Burundian and Tunisian nationals and is expected to do so for India by the end of the year.

Another important task is to strengthen border management, i.e. to fulfil the mandate of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) at the external borders and to conclude status agreements. Such an agreement has recently been signed with North Macedonia. The deployment of Frontex staff to the Western Balkan countries is important as well. The Minister also noted that Slovenia deploys a new group of police officers to North Macedonia every month to man the border with Greece.

According to the Minister, it is also essential to actually implement the return of illegally staying third-country nationals who are not eligible for international protection, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. "In this context, it is also important to conclude possible new agreements for the purpose of return to the Western Balkan countries and then to the countries of origin," the Minister added.

Migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings are currently one of the major challenges in managing migration. This pressing challenge was addressed last week in Slovenia at the Brdo Process meeting of police chiefs. In particular, the exchange of information and cooperation between security authorities, with the support of the European Police Office (Europol), were identified as key to preventing the operation and spread of these criminal networks. The Slovenian police have been very successful, arresting 234 smugglers this year alone, and have also participated in a major operation with other Member States under the auspices of Europol.

The Minister also stressed that the Slovenian Police regularly monitor migration trends and adapt their activities to ensure security for all. "At the Ministry of the Interior and the Slovenian Police, we have been working intensively in recent months with the countries along the Western Balkan route and all neighbouring countries, strengthening international cooperation."

Some time ago, the European Commission announced the preparation of the 30 million euro Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) project for the Western Balkans, aimed at preventing smugglers and organised crime, which the Minister supported. "We also support the improvement of the asylum system so that people can get international protection as soon as possible, if they are eligible for it," the Minister concluded.