They come to Serbia as tourists, and then they become migrants in BiH. With airplane from Iran to Serbia – tourist. From Serbia to Europe – migrant. This happens because there are no obstacles to Serbia. The government of this neighbouring country decided to abolish visas for citizens of Iran more than a year ago.
In order to see whether the visa-free regime between Iran and Serbia is being misused in order to reach Europe through BiH, it is enough to compare the number of migrants from Iran in 2017 and 2018. According to the Service for Foreigner Affairs, a total of 16 people from Iran requested asylum in 2017. However, we have a number of 1,647 people since the beginning of 2018. That is 100 times more – and three months before the end of the calendar year!
In March this year, the first airplane of Iran Air came to Belgrade after 27 years. Later on, two more airline companies, Qeshm Air and Mahan Air, started flying to Belgrade in the same month. So far, around 20,000 passengers travelled from Iran to Serbia. According to the Institute for Statistics of Serbia, around 16,000 Iranian tourists stayed in the neighbouring country in the first seven months of this year. Part of them continues their path to Europe illegally, as confirmed by Gordan Paunovic, the director of the Info Park Serbia, the center that provides assistance to migrants.
The Chairman of the Council of Ministers of BiH Denis Zvizdic alarmed European officials about “fake Iranian tourists”.
“That is a problem with which we introduced Commissioner Hahn, representatives of the EU, institutions and representatives of Serbia. The thing is that Serbia abolished visas or made a visa-free regime between Serbia and Iran. There are three direct flights per week at the moment, and there is also a tendency to increase the number of those flights to five. We have the information that those who come to Serbia as tourists appear as non-documented migrants in BiH. We will stop this for sure, we will have to make a stop to it,” noted Zvizdic.
This year, of the total number of those who came from Iran to BiH mostly over Serbia, 50 were placed in the Immigration Center, 66 were returned on readmission, and 18 Iranians returned voluntarily.