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Although the Balkan route was closed off in 2016, there are currently over 6,000 migrants from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in Serbia’s government-operated camps.
Dozens of migrants, trapped in Serbia, set out in freezing and windy weather on Thursday to walk about ten kilometers to the Hungarian border, demanding free and secure passage toward Western Europe, police said.
The protest in the northern city of Subotica, just outside European Union member state Hungary, came after migrants’ attempt to force their way through a border checkpoint last month.
Serbian police followed the group along the road connecting Subotica and the nearby Horgos border crossing.
“We want to work, and we want a better life for our children,” Amira from Syria said. “I am from Damascus city, and they’re shooting bombs. What else can we do?”
Serbia was a focal point for migrants in 2015 and 2016 when hundreds of thousands of them, fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East and Asia, traveled up through the Balkans to reach wealthy Western Europe.
In 2015, hundreds of them had also walked from Belgrade in protest against the closed borders, marching and chanting “open Hungary’s borders.”
The crossing was the scene of a large-scale riot at the peak of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015 when police clashed with hundreds trying to break through the frontier into the EU.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban subsequently ordered a steel fence erected along Hungary’s border, curbing arrivals.