The countries with the most recent and fresh memory of past Muslim invasion and occupation attempts are the quickest and smartest in decisions on this so called “migration crisis” hijrah. They know what it’s all about.
Macedonia closes its doors ‘completely’ to migrants trapped in Greece after Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia announce total shut down of their borders
- Skopje was allowing small numbers of migrants through, but has now stopped after neighbours shut their borders
- Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia said no migrants wishing to transit towards other countries would be allowed to enter
- Balkan trail used by floods of migrants was now shut, hiking pressure on the EU and Turkey to nail down a solution
Macedonia said it has now closed its doors ‘completely’ to migrants, leaving thousands trapped in a tented slum on the Greek border.
Skopje had been allowing small numbers of Syrians and Iraqis through, but is now stopping doing so after its neighbours tightened up their policies.
Slovenia and Croatia said last night that no migrants wishing to transit towards other countries would be allowed to enter, while Serbia indicated it would also follow suit.
It means the Balkan trail used by floods of migrants was now shut, hiking pressure on the EU and Turkey to nail down a ‘game-changing’ solution.
A Macedonian police official, who declined to be named, said: ‘We have completely closed the border.’
According to the Macedonian Interior Ministry, no migrants entered from Greece on Tuesday.
‘Macedonia will act according to the decisions taken by other countries on the Balkan route,’ an Interior Ministry spokesman said, referring to the main routes taken by more than a million migrants to reach the European Union over the last year.
The decisions were announced hours after EU leaders declared an end to a mass scramble to reach wealthy countries in Europe from war zones along the Balkan route.
Around 1,000 migrants remain stranded in a refugee camp on the Macedonian side of the Serbian border while more than 400 are stranded in ‘No Man’s Land’ between Serbia and Macedonia.
They refuse to go back to Macedonia and are not being allowed to cross in to Serbia.
EU member Slovenia said that from midnight (11pm GMT), the only exceptions were for people wishing to claim asylum in the country or for migrants ‘on humanitarian grounds and in accordance with the rules of the Schengen zone’.
Prime Minister Miro Cerar said the move meant that ‘the (Balkan) route for illegal migrations no longer exists.’
Croatia’s Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic called it a ‘new phase in resolving the migrant crisis’.
The measures follow Austria’s decision in February to cap the number of migrants passing through its territory and Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz late Tuesday welcomed the news.
‘This is putting into effect what is correct and that is the end of the ‘waving through’ (of migrants) which attracted so many migrants last year and was the wrong approach,’ Kurz told public television.
‘As Europe, we must help Greece but we have to make sure that arriving in (the Greek island of) Lesbos doesn’t mean a ticket to Germany,’ he said.
In Greece, however, the tightening of border restrictions in recent weeks sparked by Austria’s move has created a bottleneck at the border with Macedonia where more than 13,000 people were stranded, according to state agency ANA.
There was no official reaction from Athens to Slovenia and Croatia’s moves, but a Greek government source said it now considered borders through the Balkans as ‘de facto closed’.
The authorities were trying ‘to convince the refugees that are stuck to go temporarily to welcome centres throughout Greece,’ the source said.
More than a million people have crossed the Aegean Sea into Greece since the start of 2015, many from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and most aiming to reach wealthy Germany, Austria and Scandinavia.
This has caused deep divisions among EU members about how to deal with Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War Two and put German Chancellor Angela Merkel under severe pressure domestically over her open-door asylum policy.
Merkel hopes that a mooted deal with Turkey discussed at an EU summit on Monday, and due to be finalised on March 17-18, will be the answer, with Turkey offering to take back all illegal migrants landing on the Greek islands.
Turkey, currently hosting 2.7 million refugees escaping the five-year-old civil war in neighbouring Syria, is the main springboard for migrants making the perilous sea crossing to Greece.
Ankara proposed an arrangement under which the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey in exchange for every Syrian that Turkey takes from Greece, in a bid to reduce the incentive for people to board boats for Europe.
In return though, Turkey wants €6billion ($6.6billion) in aid, visa-free access for Turkish citizens to Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone and a speeding up of Ankara’s efforts to join the EU.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker called the plan a ‘real game-changer’ and insisted it was ‘legally feasible’, but it has sparked concern from UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi and others.
‘As a first reaction I’m deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law,’ Grandi told the European Parliament.
Rights group Amnesty International said the proposal was full of ‘moral and legal flaws’ and along with Human Rights Watch challenged the idea that Turkey was a ‘safe country’ to which migrants could return.