Population trends

While the de-facto closure of the so-called “Western Balkans” route in 2016 reduced the number of persons potentially in need of protection transiting the region, many continue to arrive, relying primarily on smugglers.

Despite heavy restrictions at borders especially between Serbia and Hungary and Serbia and Croatia, the number of persons staying longer-term in Serbia decreased from over 7,000 at the beginning of 2017 to currently some 4,000.



internally displaced persons




persons in risk of statelessness


aslyum-seekers in 2018

In addition to the apparent shift in movement patterns, from North Macedonia-Serbia route in 2015/16 to Albania-Montenegro-BiH from 2017 to 2019, the intensity of migration has also augmented throughout the region.

By May 2019, the number of arrivals in Albania reached 1,967 – 18% higher than the same period of last year, and almost double then in whole of 2017 (1049).

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the number of arrivals of refugees and migrants hits the 30K marks with 30,268 detected by BiH authorities since January 2018. Of those, 6,201 were detected in 2019 which is double the number compared to the same period in 2018.

In Montenegro, the number of arrivals by May 2019 was 238% higher than the same period in 2018, while Kosovo (S/RES/1244 (1999)) recorded a 313% increase, compared to 2018.

The same trend continues in Serbia, the number of arrivals by May 2019 was 271% higher than the same period in 2018, while the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in the country slightly dropped from 4,500 in Dec 2018, to 3,600 in May 2019.

The number of irregular arrivals has also increased in North Macedonia, with the figure for 2019 nearly doubling that for the same period of 2018.

Even though the number of persons seeking asylum in SEE has evidently, and in certain parts significantly, increased and seriously challenged the asylum procedures and reception capacities, this figure remains relatively low compared to 2014-2016. In sum, total new arrivals to Western Balkans regions for 2018 amount to some 78,000, out of whom some 40% expressed intention to seek international protection, while 12% submitted asylum applications. By May 2019, 9,975 persons expressed intentions to seek asylum, while 27% actually logged the applications.

Mixed Migration Movement Map (Update as of May 2019)

Population of concern

As of 31 December 2018

* All designations of Kosovo in this document are without prejudice to positions on status, and are in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) and the International Court of Justice Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence

Source: UNHCR, partners/NGOs, governments (MoI, border police)