For more than 20 years, the EU has been developing cooperation with non-member countries (so-called "third countries") to outsource its border control. Identified as departure countries and then as transit countries for migration to the EU, the Balkan countries have been rapidly integrated into the core of this externalisation strategy. This has been particularly the case since the so-called "migration crisis" of 2015, when almost one million persons, mainly from the Middle East, were accounted for along the Balkan route1 linking Greece to EU countries further west, notably Germany. Summoned to act as border guards and "hotspots"2 for the EU, the Balkan countries are now the scene of many rights violations and violence against exiles.
This report is a result of a fieldwork carried out between January and April 2021 for Migreurop network, and documents this process of externalization of European borders in the Balkan region. It is based on field observations and more than a hundred interviews with exiled persons, representatives of local and international NGOs, researchers, activists, lawyers, journalists and institutional actors.
The report is divided into three parts. The first examines how EU leaders are instrumentalising the accession process of the Balkan countries for the purposes of migration control. The second addresses the transformation of these countries into EU’s border watchdogs, with a particular focus on refoulement practices and violence as standard border management tools. The third part documents the implementation of the ’hotspot approach’ in the region.
To go further :
For over ten years, members and close partners of the Migreurop network have documented the process of externalisation of EU border control in the Balkans -> see the additional bibliography in the report.