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11 Oct 2018

EU forces Serbia to return visa regime for Iranian passport holders

EU forces Serbia to return visa regime for Iranian passport holdersThe Serbian government has canceled visa-free entry for Iranian passport holders just a little bit more than a year after it abolished visa regime. The decision, taken on October 8, was made known through a government decree published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday. It will take effect on October 16, eight days after its publication.

The decision to cancel visa-free entry for nationals of the Islamic country, with which it has had close ties since the Yugoslavian times, comes after pressure and criticism Serbia received from the European Union.

The Serbian Minister of Internal Affairs Nebojsa Stefanovic said in front of MPs at the parliament on Wednesday that visas would be re-introduced for citizens of Iran due to the number of Iranian nationals using Serbia as a route to reach the EU illegally.

Iranians use visa-free travel to Serbia to flee to EU

On August 2017, Belgrade had decided to abolish visas for Iranians, as a reward for not recognizing its former province, now the Republic of Kosovo, as an independent country.  Serbia argued its decision that visa liberalization would help develop tourism between the two countries and attract long-term business investments.

Since then, the number of Iranian asylum seekers in Serbia has risen significantly. Official statistics show that within the last year, since the decision took place, 7,000 Iranians have arrived in Serbia as tourists, with no intention to return to Iran. Among them, in 2018 alone, 1,100 have officially sought asylum in Serbia to secure access to refugee centers where they can get shelter and food.

Months ago, the European Council demanded from Serbia, to respect the European Union visa policies.

Iran nationals are required to possess a Schengen visa when attempting to enter any of the 26 Schengen states. In addition, Iran is one of the only 12 in the list of countries that need an airport transit visa, to transit in any of the Schengen airports to reach their destination country.

Its passport is one of the weakest in the world, with its citizens capable of visiting only 43 world countries visa-free or with a visa-on-arrival.

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