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Serbian border police see huge increase in number of Syrian migrants

A Serbian border policeman looks at a thermal camera screen while on patrol near the town of Presevo, 238 miles from the capital, Belgrade, July 16, 2013. All photos: Marko Djurica / Reuters
Migrants, most of whom said they were from Syria, sit on the ground after being apprehended by the Serbian border police, having illegally entered the country from Macedonia.
A girl whose family said they were from Syria sleeps after being apprehended by the Serbian border police.

Every year, the Serbian border police catch thousands of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere who are trying to reach Serbia illegally. In many cases they come from Turkey, through Greece to Macedonia and Serbia before they reach Hungary and, with it, the borderless Schengen travel zone. With chaos and conflict raging in Syria, last year saw a huge increase in the number of Syrians trying to enter the Western Balkans in search of asylum in the West.

Reuters photographer Marko Djurica recently spent some time following the story and was surprised by how the story impacted him.

On Reuters Photographer's Blog, Djurica writes:

Sasha, a policeman, gave me his thermal binoculars and said: “Look to the left, they are ascending uphill, you can see them beautifully, them climbing in a column one by one.” I spent a full two minutes looking at total blackness until I could make out the tiny white outlines of people hurrying through the forest. It brought back memories of looking at black-and-white film through a magnifying glass.

“Now, slowly behind us, we need to be quiet.”

“I’m following you,” I told Sasha, and asked how it would be possible for three policemen in the dark, wide, open hills to catch 40 people. We hid behind a bush along their route and waited. Sasha stayed with me in front while the other two positioned themselves to surround the group. “When you hear me scream, ‘Stop — police!’ then you can start taking pictures.” Read the full story and see more images from Reuters.

A map of the Serbian-Macedonian border shows routes that migrants use to cross the border, inside a police station in the Serbian town of Presevo, July 16, 2013.
A migrant who said he was from Somalia sits on the ground after being apprehended by the Serbian border police, having illegally entered the country from Macedonia.
Migrants get inside a police vehicle after being apprehended by the Serbian border police July 17, 2013.
A migrant who said he was from Afghanistan has his photograph taken inside a police station after being apprehended by the Serbian border police.