The EU should help Macedonia in securing the border with Greece, according to the Austrian Defense Minister Peter Doskozil. The Balkan route "must stay closed," the minister told the German "Die Welt" newspaper.
The government in Skopje has done "a tremendous amount of work for the whole of the European Union," by securing its borders, Doskozil said for the Wednesday edition of "Die Welt," adding that the Balkan country deserved more EU funding.
"We, meaning the EU, should not leave the countries in the lurch when they are taking on an important task of border security for us," he said.
In recent days, Macedonian security forces prevented hundreds of refugees from leaving Greece and moving north, bypassing the barrier erected to stem the flow of refugees on the Greek-Macedonian border.
Austria has already offered support to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in securing the frontier.
"The defense ministry is now checking if we might help by providing equipment, for example night-vision surveillance," Doskozil said.
Over 12,000 migrants are stuck in the crowded Idomeni camp on the Greek side, with many more staying in various shelters and camps across Greece. Others are trapped in various border areas along the so-called Balkan route, after several transit countries closed their doors.
Bulgaria as an alternative route
The Balkan refugee route "must stay closed," Doskozil told the German newspaper.
At the same time, the Austrian official warned that the migrants would try alternative ways enter Western Europe, stressing that gangs are making billions by smuggling them in.
"They might target Bulgaria, which has a long border with Turkey. There are somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 migrants in the border area, on the Turkish side," he said.
Austria has limited its daily intake of refugees in February, prompting states Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia to close their borders to asylum seekers. Vienna is now taking in only 80 asylum seekers per day, and allowing 3,200 migrants to continue on to Germany.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected the idea of imposing a similar limit.
The EU leaders are due to finalize a deal on the migrant issue on a summit with Turkey later in the week.