Immigration controls for Serbian citizens who want to travel to the EU will be intensified, announced the country’s Minister of Interior Ivica Dacic in a statement on Monday, adding that customs officials will be checking that passengers have satisfactory funds, travel insurance and return tickets.
The announcement followed a meeting between Dacic and a delegation of Belgian officials led by Melchior Wathelet, the State Secretary for Migration and Asylum Policies in the EU.
Dacic claimed that harassing legitimate Serbian travelers was not the purpose of the new measures, which he said are designed to protect the country’s visa liberalization scheme.
“False asylum seekers must be prevented from crossing EU borders. While asylum seeker numbers are decreasing, they are still higher than they were before visa liberalization, and we need to fix this problem,” said Dacic.
The minister went on to suggest that possible deterrent measures might include confiscating passports from Serbian citizens who abused EU asylum rules, or banning them from leaving the country.
Dacic also said that immigration officials would investigate tour operators in the country suspected of organizing transportation for false asylum seekers, as well as certain other officials who are alleged to have taken bribes to issue travel documents to such persons.
The ultimate goal of the new measures, Dacic explained, is to fully integrate minority people into Serbian society and to better develop the areas of the country where most asylum seekers come from.
Meanwhile, State Secretary Wathelet said that although the number of Serbian asylum seekers in the EU has leveled off in recent months, the figure is still too high.
He welcomed Minister Dacic’s stricter measures and acknowledged that his ministry were doing much to combat the problem.