FM: Sending migrants back to Serbia is unacceptable
Ivica Dacic says Serbia finds it "unacceptable" that Hungary would send migrants back while more and more are arriving from Macedonia and Greece.
AP quoted the foreign minister as saying: "Serbia is not a collective center - we want to be part of the solution, not collateral damage. There will have to be talks in the coming days with Brussels and other countries."
Dacic, who was in Prague for an OSCE conference on Tuesday when he made the comments, stressed that Serbia, which is not an EU member, has found itself "stuck between two parts of the EU that are not cooperating, and have different policies."
His Czech counterpart Lubomir Zaoralek said that "Europe must return to a normal condition within its internal borders," the agency said, and added that the influx of migrants seeking asylum in Europe was not abating.
Meanwhile, European Commission officials "have been unable to say" today whether Hungary can send those refugees it deems have no right to enter its territory - arriving in the country from the Middle East via Greece and Serbia - back to Serbia, or to Greece, which is the EU country they first set foot in.
EC spokesperson Natasha Berto replied to this question by saying that the EU "has a readmission agreement with Serbia," and that she "does not know whether Hungary has a separate bilateral agreement on returning asylum seekers" - so she "could not make a comment."
Asked whether Hungary can go ahead and send migrants back to Serbia, despite Belgrade saying it will not accept them and telling Budapest to return them to Greece, the EU country they came from - Berto said: "The EU as a whole is implementing the principle of not returning persons across borders if they truly need international protection, while asylum applications are considered individually."
"But, when it comes to persons arriving in Europe without the right to remain there," she continued, "they are returned to their countries of origin when the EU has agreements on readmission, and since the EU has readmission agreements with the Western Balkans, Hungary can send Serbian citizens back to Serbia, or refuse them entry at the border."
Berto further said that EU ministers of internal affairs and justice "said yesterday the EU would offer assistance to the countries on the Balkan refugee route," and that the EU will soon hold a meeting on this topic "with Hungary and Western Balkans countries."
According to reports on Tuesday quoting "an unofficial explanation from an EU source" there is no clear answer to the question how Hungary - "since it can hardly legally force Serbia to accept them" - might send migrants coming from Asia and Africa back to Greece - "considering the EU's position that Greece is in a particularly difficult economic and financial situation."
The Dublin rules are clear: an EU member can send migrants back to the EU country they first entered, because that country on the external borders of the 28-member union "must launch procedures to approve asylum requests to migrants."
Commenting on Monday, a state secretary with the Serbia Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs announced the country would deploy soldiers to its border to prevent Hungary sending back migrants, and added:
"If they want to send them back, they'll have to send them back to Greece. That was the first country of entry into the EU. We will not accept them even at the price of Serbia deploying soldiers to its border."