November 1998 Volume 5 Number 11
Eastern Europe, ex-USSR
More and more migrants headed for Germany or France are being arrested in Hungary and the Czech Republic, and some are choosing to stay in Eastern Europe. In 1997, Hungary apprehended about 20,000 foreigners and expects to apprehend almost twice as many in 1998.
Many observers believe that Eastern European countries that are today transit countries for migrants headed west will become destination countries, especially as their economies grow in anticipation of EU entry. In 1997, about 177 foreigners applied for asylum in Hungary. In 1998, some 3,000 applied in the first nine months of the year, reflecting the Kosovo fighting as well as the emergence of Hungary as a destination.
The Czech Republic apprehended 30,000 foreigners on its border with Germany in the first nine months of 1998; most were ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. The Czech Republic has threatened to stop trains from Slovakia to check passports. However, the head of the Slovak border police said on October 26 that Bratislavia had introduced similar visa requirements for Yugoslavs and it had "solved nothing." According to the head of the Slovak border police, some 5,916 migrants were halted between January and September, 1998, and 6,687 migrants were apprehended trying to illegally enter the country.
Germany has increased the number of Border Patrol agents on its side of the Czech border. Czech guards complain that they lack the equipment to do their job. They are limited by a ration of 40 gallons of gasoline a month for each vehicle, and have few cells to detain illegal migrants. The EU has provided $2.8 million to pay for a communications network and to increase cooperation among the various Czech units patrolling the border.
Ukraine reported that it apprehended 8,500 illegal migrants attempting to cross out of the country on its western borders so far in 1998; in 1997, 11,000 were apprehended. Most were Chinese, Afghani, Sri Lankans, Iranians and Bangladeshis. About 40 percent of those who apply for asylum are permitted to stay in Ukraine, but Ukraine takes away refugee status from foreigners who try to illegally migrate west. The Lviv railway station, near the border with Poland, is reported to be a bazaar where locals solicit migrants seeking guides into Poland.
Russia reported its lowest level of new refugees and displaced persons in 1997- -Russia's Federal Migration Service (FMS) registered 131,100 forced migrants, including 125,000 displaced persons. About 64,000 newcomers arrived from Kazakstan, making the Central Asian nation the largest source of in-migration for Russia.
Lily Hyde, "Ukraine: Smugglers Cash In On Migrants," Radio Free Europe, October 27, 1998. "Slovakia Improves in Guarding Border with Czech Republic," CTK National News Wire, October 26, 1998. David Rocks, "Europe's Would-be Elite Struggle with Porous Borders," Chicago Tribune, September 10, 1998.