SUBOTICA, Serbia (AP) — Serbian security forces stepped up patrols and deployed an elite unit Wednesday on its border with Hungary, trying to halt the flow of migrants that has triggered alarm in many European Union countries.
The last six months has seen a massive exodus of mostly Kosovo Albanians fleeing poverty and unemployment in search for a better life in the European Union.
Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Residents must cross through Balkan neighbor Serbia to reach Hungary, a member of the 28-nation EU.
Serbian authorities say an average of 1,000 asylum seekers are caught daily by either Hungarian or Serbian border guards as they try to cross illegally through forests and freezing rivers. The migrants also include many Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and others.
Officials in Kosovo estimate at least 100,000 Kosovo Albanians, or six percent of its population, have left the Balkan state since last summer. Most of them say they are fleeing poverty and unemployment.
"We want to earn some money to feed our children," a Kosovo Albanian man caught on the border Tuesday by Serbian police told The Associated Press. He refused to be identified by name, fearing legal consequences. "We don't see a future in Kosovo. ... Back home, there are no jobs. We cannot live."
Once migrants are inside Hungary, they can travel freely to most other EU nations. Many are seeking asylum in richer EU countries, such as Germany, Austria, France, Sweden or Britain.
Dusan Stojanovic contributed.