FYROM shuts border, closing refugee route to northern Europe

Officials in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have announced they will no longer allow refugees and asylum seekers through the country’s borders.


The decision leaves about 14,000 people stranded along the Greek side of its border with Macedonia.

It is the sound of refugees and asylum seekers protesting the latest move by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at a camp on the Greek-Macedonia border.

Macedonia has decided to completely seal off its border, effectively meaning the route through the Balkans used to reach northern Europe is closed.

Macedonia had been allowing small numbers of Syrians and Iraqis through its border.

But it says it is stopping doing even that after neighbouring Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia tightened their policies.

These men waiting at the camp along the Greek-Macedonian border have expressed their frustration:

(First:) “We want to go to Germany or Sweden or Holland. No problem. We want open the border.” (Second:) “I feel sick of this, so tired and bored of this, just waiting for nothing. I wait and wait and wait, and then there is nothing. I know that there is nothing at the end, but I’m waiting.”

The Balkan countries were given the go ahead to put restrictions in place following a European Union summit with Turkey earlier in the week.

But the United Nations and human-rights groups have warned a provisional deal between EU and Turkey could be illegal.

Under the proposed measures, the bloc would send refugees and migrants back to Turkey in exchange for giving Turkey political and financial rewards.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has expressed concern about the arrangement.

And Amnesty International has called the mass return of people a “death blow to the right to seek asylum.”

International Committee of the Red Cross president Peter Maurer says he shares those concerns.

“The baseline of our concern is that those people who are fleeing violence and persecution need protection, and I think, at the present moment, we don’t know how this plan will unfold, what it exactly means, but, from what we see and what we hear, it is not evident that those who need protection will get protection.”

Mr Maurer says he hopes the deal does not contravene international law.

“Whatever plan states are doing, that the best possible deal is found for those who flee contexts of violence, that they have protection and assistance where they need it. We really need to look at the details and to see that international law, in terms of non-refoulement — not sending back people to places where they face the dangers they were fleeing from — that this is implemented in a strict way.”

The EU insists the deal, due to be finalised next week, is aimed at bringing to an end the mass influx of more than a million people fleeing war and poverty.