Global Independent Analytics

Macedonia, other Balkan nations begin turning away migrants

Authorities in Macedonia have begun turning away migrants who are unable to prove that they are fleeing war in Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq, leaving thousands of people stranded at the border with Greece.

The Washington Post’s Oscar Lopez reports: Macedonian government performs background check of the immigrants and strengthens border control by letting into the country only those who can prove they are Syrian war refugees. Tens of hundreds of people end up at the Greece border. Daily protests are being performed by immigrants since the disclosure of personal checks.

About hundred of Moroccan and Iranian arrivals protested this innovation by holding hand-written signs with “We are not terrorists!” and chanting “We want to live” against a barricade constructed by Macedonian police officers. Other visitors did not directly take part in the protest but watched anxiously. One of migrants shared that his parents have wanted him to stay but he was told to go to another country since at his motherland there was no future.

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris stirred security concerns everywhere in Europe: identical limitations have been implied in Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia last week, but nevertheless the refugee flow through the Balkanian bottleneck  does not seem to slow down.

 If the screening measures have not been implemented, Macedonia would be at risk of accepting migrants in number exceeding its host possibilities; moreover, those refugees who have been refused asylum in Serbia head to Macedonia too.

Although it is still unclear how exactly the screening would be conducted and what is the expected security profit, but Foreign Ministry of Macedonia intends to obtain boundary control and to separate those fleeing war from those who have migrated out of economic considerations.

The amount of immigrants who have not arrived from war-torn countries equals to about 9 percent og the overall quantity: “[m]igrants fleeing economic hardship are a minority among the migrants arriving in Europe: According to the United Nations, of the more than 700,000 migrants who have arrived in Greece this year, 62 percent are Syrian, 23 percent are from Afghanistan and 7 percent are Iraqi”, concludes Lopez.

Some of those protesters at the Macedonian border admit that it is not the war they ran away from, but there is another reason and it is a case of emergency. One of the rebels stated that he has converted to Christianity and there is no way back to Iran for him. He added that the majority of refugees are aware of strengthened background check in Europe and understand that this is a result of brutal Paris attacks: “We are so sad for Paris,” cites Lopez. “But we are not terrorists. We just don’t have freedom. What is the difference between Iranian people and Syrian people?” He demonstrated his scars under his American flag T-shirt and explained that he got them back in his motherland.

Another refugee, mother of three, could take only one child with her; the other two have been left with her parents, who managed to reach Uganda. She expressed her fear towards inhuman South Sudan’s civil war, which has taken away so many lives.

Immigrants, who were denied to enter Macedonia, are under control of Doctors without Borders and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; the organizations provide almost 1,500 of homeless people with food and tents.

The resolution to strengthen boundary control was denounced by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees not only in Macedonia, but also in Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia: “People seeking asylum need to be screened on individual merit, not on the basis of their nationality”, reports Lopez.

Even those who managed to do it into the country claim that the stricter measures have influenced inner life, making it more difficult: one of the arrivals reported that he and his family of wife and two children arrived from Homs only to find out that the border was closed by protesters.

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