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Greece braces for thousands of stranded migrants

Athens has initiated "diplomatic moves" to persuade Macedonia to allow Afghan migrants to transit the country. Thousands of migrants have amassed at the border after Macedonia refused to allow Afghans entry.

Ioannis Mouzalas, Greece's junior interior minister for migration, said on Monday that Athens is taking action to persuade Macedonian authorities to allow Afghan migrants.

On Sunday, Macedonia refused to allow Afghans to enter the country. According to Greek police, some 5,000 refugees and migrants were stranded due to Skopje's move.

"We have begun diplomatic moves. ... We believe the problem will be resolved," Mouzalas said in a televised statement.

Around 3,000 other migrants were blocked from leaving Athens after arriving at the port of Piraeus in order to avert a crisis at Greece's border with Macedonia.

"We are making preparations so that even if the problem is not resolved, if there is a violation of European decisions by Serbia and Skopje, to be able to manage the problem that will be created in Greece," Mouzalas added.

Macedonia said it would allow Syrian and Iraqi refugees to transit through the country on their journey towards Germany and other well-off EU nations.

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The move comes as EU authorities push for a comprehensive action plan with Turkey to curb migration to the 28-nation bloc.

More than one million asylum seekers entered the EU in 2015, many of them fleeing war in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

On Friday, European Council President Donald Tusk announced a special EU meeting with Turkey slated for early March to bolster cooperation in managing the wave of migration to Europe.

ls/jil (AFP, AP, dpa)

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