Macedonia joins Balkan nations choking off migrant route | News | DW | 09.03.2016
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Macedonia joins Balkan nations choking off migrant route

Macedonia has closed its borders completely to migrants, a police official has said. This makes it the fourth nation to do so in just a day, effectively shutting off the path used by many refugees to cross Europe.

"Macedonia will act according to the decisions taken by other countries on the Balkan route," said a spokesman from the Interior Ministry on Wednesday, adding that no migrants had entered from Greece for 24 hours.

This decision leaves more than 400 people with nowhere to go in a no man's land between Serbia and Macedonia, refusing to return to Macedonia and barred entry to Serbia.

The call from Skopje to shut its borders follows similar ones in Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia.

"The essence of this is to firmly stick to a regular border regime and to be ready to react to any exceptional circumstances," said Croatian Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic, mentioning that the 408 refugees stranded in at a camp in the country would likely be returned to Greece.

EU leader: 'Irregular flows' must end

European Union President Donald Tusk welcomed the change, saying they were simply implementing an important part of the EU plan to tackle the refugee crisis.

"Irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans route have come to an end," he wrote on Twitter, adding that while it might not be a "unilateral" strategy, it was still an important part of a bloc-wide approach.

The Western Balkan nations have slowly been reducing the number of refugees allowed through their frontiers for weeks, effectively dashing the hopes of migrants hoping to reach richer nations in other parts of Europe.

The strategy has left thousands stranded between borders or without a clear way forward. In Greece alone, the number of marooned migrants is estimated to be around 36,000.

es/jil (AFP, dpa, Reuters)