Population movements and migration have always been a feature of history. But now South-East Europe is experiencing an unprecedented influx of migrants, making the eastern Mediterranean route the most frequented migratory trail in Europe. According to FRONTEX, the number of migrants in the Western Balkans increased from 19,950 in 2013 to 43,360 in 2014, and the trend has accelerated, with 46,000 migrants in the first five months of 2015 alone.
Huge numbers of them come from countries torn by conflict or violence, travelling for hundreds of kilometres, sometimes on foot, exposing their own lives and the lives of their families to hardship and danger. They suffer harsh weather conditions or travel packed tight in smugglers' vans, sometimes facing the incomprehension or animosity of the local population, trying to stick with their small groups or families and ever moving onwards.
Authorities in the countries through which these migrants pass are overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. Certainly, there are laws governing the procedures for handling migrants and asylum seekers, but they are sometimes inadequate and in many cases the mechanisms that should ensure their implementation simply do not exist. Facilities for accommodating migrants are often insufficient. The countries of the region were already facing their own economic problems. Now they have to shoulder this additional humanitarian burden. To their credit, the health services of countries such as Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have not shied away from providing life-saving and sometimes costly treatment.
See also : Missing migrants