Serbia ends visa-free entry for Tunisians amid European pressure
Serbia has ended visa-free travel from Tunisia and Burundi, after weeks of pressure from top EU officials to tackle sharply rising migration routes through the Western Balkans.
From 20 November, Tunisians will need to apply for a visa before arriving in Serbia, which had been one of the last European countries to allow visa-free travel from northern Africa.
"I hope Serbia is acting fast now," Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser had said during a meeting with her EU counterparts earlier in October.
"There are criteria for being a member of the EU, and part of that is a common visa policy," she said at press conference.
Serbia's push for European Union membership has been marred by its reluctance to join sanctions regimes against Russia and a perceived unwillingness to assist in securing Europe’s land borders.
The ending of the visa-free scheme for Tunisia and Burundi was hailed on social media by a number of EU member state institutions.
The Swiss police praised the announcement, calling the move a "success for Switzerland and other #Schengen states in fighting irregular migration using the Balkan route".
But Tunisian academics and activists were quick to criticise European celebrations.
“The wall between Europe and Africa has just been raised yet higher... and more deaths on the horizon. Less freedom of movement. Do you call that a success?” tweeted researcher Mohammed Haddad.
With dwindling safe routes to Europe, Tunisians fleeing economic hardship and authoritarian rule are being pushed towards deadly migration routes across the Mediterranean.
According to official figures, more than 22,500 migrants have been intercepted off the Tunisian coast since the start of the year, around half of them from sub-Saharan Africa.
The country is currently in the throes of an economic crisis, with an estimated third of its 12 million-strong population living below the poverty line.