Huge Increase in Migration Through Croatia in 2023

Refugee crisis in the Western Balkans: Scenes of despair and hope. Photo taken in 2015 in Serbia (Photo: European Union/ECHO/Mathias Eick, Presevo, Serbia, November 2015)

Croatia, the EU Schengen Area’s newest member, has witnessed a 140% uptick in illegal migration this year compared to last year when it was a non-Schengen member, the Head of the Border Police Directorate Zoran Niceno announced on Thursday, September 28th.

Quoting Niceno speaking at a press conference, Brussels-based news portal The European Conservative noted that over 54,500 migrants crossed the Croatian border illegally. “All of them sought asylum. That says a lot. This shows that smugglers and migrants know the European Union system well, that by giving fingerprints they know that there is little chance that they will be returned and they know that they have freedom of movement while they are in Croatia,” Niceno said, according to a report from the Croatian news portal Index. 

With a population of nearly 4 million residents, Croatia formally entered the European Union’s Schengen Zone at the beginning of this year. The Schengen area is made up of 27 member states and encompasses over 400 million people who, theoretically and under normal conditions, can travel freely without any internal border controls.

The country, which has the EU’s longest external land border, spanning some 1,350 kilometers in total, was one of the main passages along the Balkan route that was used by hundreds of thousands of migrants during the crisis of 2015 and 2016.

Now, nearly a decade later, although traveled less, migrants looking to make the EU their home still make use of the route, entering Croatia’s lengthy border from neighboring Serbia or Bosnia Herzegovina. Despite the number of detections of illegal border crossings along the Balkan route being down 19% year over year, it still remains the second most frequented route, with over 70,550 detections in the January to August period of this year.

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