Serbian Minister Bans Anti-Migrant Protests


Civil rights groups have welcomed the Serbian government’s decision to ban a planned right-wing rally against migrants set for Monday.

Nebojsa Stefanovic, Serbia’s Interior Minister, on Wednesday banned protests against refugees in Serbia after two far-right organisations, Nasi [Ours] and Srbski obraz, announced a rally next Monday.

The groups denounced what they called “an EU plan” to settle 400,000 migrants in Serbia.

“We will not allow the expression of intolerance and hatred to be something that is characteristic of Serbia. The Ministry of Interior will not allow any meetings against migrants and people passing through Serbia, who were forced to do so because of difficult conditions or war in their country,” Stefanovic stated.

He said Serbia was proud of its traditions and would not allow “fascist manifestations”.

Milan Antonijevic, from the Belgrade NGO Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, told BIRN that the ban was a good move but urged the authorities to do more to prevent problems from arising.

“The government should start a campaign to explain to citizens who the refugees are and why they come here – that they are facing terrible conditions and wars in their countries and so were forced to leave,” Antonijevic said.

At the same time, he added that the government should clearly remind people that hate speech is a crime and that those found responsible for it will be properly sanctioned.

“The fears of refugees are irrational and I feel sorry that some organisations are trying to emerge from anonymity by mobilizing and abusing people with anti-gay propaganda and xenophobia,” Antonijevic said.

Another Belgrade NGO, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, said the planned protest against refugees would be a “shameful act.”

The propagation of hatred against asylum seekers would only escalate conflict in the entire region, the NGO stated, calling for solidarity with the refugees.

Brankica Jankovic, Serbia’s Equality Commissioner, also urged the government to send the “clear message” it will not tolerate extremism.

“Intolerance, xenophobia and racism must be broadly condemned by all relevant factors in Serbia, not only by individuals,” she said.

“Most Serbian citizens have showed great willingness to help migrants, largely because they themselves understand the evil that forced these people to flee their homes,” Jankovic said.

Serbia is not the only country facing anti-migrant protests. Germany, which expects to receive up to 800,000 asylum seekers this year, has seen several attacks on asylum camps lately.

Serbia is among a number of countries in southern Europe that are facing a massive influx of the Middle East refugees.

According to EU border agency, Frontex, some 102,000 migrants entered the EU via the “Western Balkan route” between January and July this year, versus just 8,000 for the same period in 2014.

Momir Stojanovic, chairman of the Serbian parliament’s committee monitoring the security services, recently said the EU had no lasting solution to the crisis caused by the large number of migrants and might try to finance the building of a huge centre to house them in the Balkans.

Serbian government officials have denied coming under any pressure from the EU to build such a centre, however.



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