News / Europe

    Macedonia Closes Border to Migrants

    Migrants try to prepare a meal during a rainfall at a makeshift camp on the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, Greece, March 9, 2016.
    Migrants try to prepare a meal during a rainfall at a makeshift camp on the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, Greece, March 9, 2016.
    VOA News

    Thousands of migrants trying to reach northern Europe are now stranded in Greece after Macedonia closed its border Wednesday, police officials said.

    The decision comes a day after Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia closed their borders to transiting migrants, with exceptions being made only for asylum-seekers.

    It effectively closes the so-called "Balkan route" taken by many migrants headed for wealthier nations in western Europe, with Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar saying, "The [Balkan] route for illegal migrations no longer exists."

    Slovenia's action is in line with a decree made Monday at a European Union meeting in Brussels that EU members must return to enforcement of the open-border Schengen agreement, which says nations can bar entry to any migrants who do not plan to apply for asylum in that country.

    Children at Idomeni refugee camp on the Greece-Macedonia border, March 8, 2016. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)
    Children at Idomeni refugee camp on the Greece-Macedonia border, March 8, 2016. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)

    Pressure on EU, Turkey

    The new measures put extra pressure on the European Union and its neighbors to handle the crowds of migrants already awaiting help within the EU and in Turkey, where 2.7 million migrants are waiting to continue their journey.

    It also exacerbates a dire situation on the Macedonian border.

    Greek officials said nearly 36,000 migrants and refugees are stranded in the country, including more than 14,000 mainly Syrian and Iraqi refugees stuck in a muddy, unhygienic camp near the Idomeni border crossing with Macedonia.

    UN Calls for 'EU Solution' to Growing Refugee Crisisi
    Jane Bojadzievski
    March 09, 2016 11:05 PM
    As Macedonia became the fourth country this week to close its borders to refugees, experts warned of an increasingly dire situation in refugee camps in Greece.

    EU leaders and Ankara said Tuesday they had reached a possible deal that would return the thousands of migrants who arrived in Greece from Turkey.

    After months of disagreements and increased bickering among the 28 EU nations, the leaders said they agreed to give Turkey more than $3 billion in additional funds to help with the nearly 3 million Syrian refugees it is hosting.

    The EU leaders also agreed to swiftly ease visa requirements for Turks and speed up Ankara's EU accession talks in exchange for its help in stemming migration flows to Europe.

    Resettle refugees

    In addition, the deal calls for the EU to resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkey in return for every Syrian refugee Turkey takes back from Greece.

    However, UNHCR refugee coordinator for Europe Vincent Cochetel, who said he did not know the details of the proposed deal, told VOA he worries it may lack safeguards to protect asylum-seekers.

    “Collective expulsion of foreigners is prohibited under the European Convention of Human Rights," Cochetel said. "An agreement that would be tantamount to a blanket return of any foreigners to a third country is not consistent with European law, is not consistent with international law.”

    All eyes are now on March 17 and the start of a two-day summit to finalize the commitment and agree on a deal that the leaders hope will allow for a return to normalcy along their borders by the end of the year.

    Europe is struggling to handle its largest refugee crisis since World War II. Last year, more than 1 million refugees and migrants made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Europe, and roughly 142,000 have arrived so far this year, most of them arriving in Greece.

    Aerial view of a migrant tent camp along the Macedonia-Greece borderi
    March 09, 2016 11:15 PM
    Aerial view of a migrant tent camp along the Macedonia-Greece border, March 9, 2016

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    Comment Sorting
    by: George Lourake from: Atlanta
    March 10, 2016 4:34 AM
    To solve the refugee crisis, Greece must arrest every smuggler that brings in a load and take the boat!

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    March 09, 2016 10:10 PM
    Wow, when you look at the route these refugees are taking, they are purposely avoiding Bosnia. I wonder why. Oh I see, it's a Muslim country....THAT'S WHY! Muslim refugees do not run to Muslim countries, yet, they still hold on dearly that their religion is the religion of peace.

    March 09, 2016 2:33 PM
    I wish that you start using the appropriate name for the country of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,instead of plain Macedonia.There is only one Macedonia,and it is the Greek Macedonia Province,in Northern Greece,the birthplace of Alexander the Great.Please stop using plain Macedonia,because even the U N uses FYROM. Thanks for your understanding

    by: MikeG
    March 09, 2016 1:55 PM
    Turkey has been turning a blind eye to people smuggling for decades. Now it has scaled up what was once an operation run by shady individuals to a government run enterprise. It is not only extorting money from the EU, it is forcing the block to open its doors to Turkish admission. If the UK votes to recede from the EU in the upcoming referendum, and Turkey manages to gain admission, my guess is that the union will remain as is for 10 more years at most before other members begin to recede.

    by: Kujtim from: Tampa
    March 09, 2016 1:36 PM
    No humanity left. This is shameful.

    by: Trump
    March 09, 2016 12:59 PM
    Build the wall

    by: Zivago from: Slovenia
    March 09, 2016 7:36 AM
    Penalise 5 million euros - both Greece and Turkey.
    Make a grand plan to send all 'migrants' back to origin country !

    - It is a sinister plan to occupy Europe - by using children as shields for sympathy !!
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 09, 2016 10:46 AM
    If not for the NATO invasion wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and their proxy wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen, [there wouldn't be millions of innocent displaced homeless migrants looking for a safe place for themselves and their families to go to and live, [because], everybody in the world knows, NATO will never attack a NATO or western European country? .. If NATO stopped their participation in those wars, the millions of innocent displaced homeless migrants would soon disappear?

    What goes around, sometime comes back around, and kicks you in your rear-end, to remind you that there's always repercussions for actions not foreseen when you attack somebody or other countries? .. If not for the wars, there'd be no migrant problem now, would there be?

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