New Rules Along Balkan Route Slash Number Of Migrants
New rules being enforced in the Balkan corridor dramatically slashed the number of migrants passing through Macedonia and Serbia on their way to Western Europe.
New migration guidelines agreed to by Balkan interior ministers in Zagreb on Thursday resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of migrants crossing the southern Macedonian border over the weekend, reports "Balkaninsight".
Macedonian police were reportedly the first to apply the new procedures, conducting body searches on and demanding passports from migrants. Macedonia allowed just some 310 migrants to enter the country in past 24 hours, closing the border with Greece to Afghan migrants, Greek police said on Sunday.
Only Iraqis and Syrians are being permitted entry.
The moves have led to a buildup of migrants waiting at the Greek side of the border. Greek police said 800 were stranded at the border Sunday and another 2,750 were waiting in buses nearby, AP reported.
As part of the new rules, the police chiefs of Austria, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia agreed to organize the joint transport of migrants from the Macedonia-Greece border to Austria. Police in each country will guarantee the passage of migrants within their countries' limits. Migrants will also be profiled by officials of all five countries.
The change along the Balkan corridor came just days after Austria started to implement a new cap on migrants, only allowing in 3,200 refugees a day from countries at war. The Austrian move will not make a much of a difference in Germany, the final destination for many migrants, as this still amounts to a million new people per year.
However, reinforced Balkan borders will probably force migrants to change their routes, as they did last summer when Hungary erected a razor-wire fence to stop the flow of refugees. German media reported that stricter controls on Balkan route might force migrants to seek an entry to the EU elsewhere - across the Black Sea or trough Georgia and Russia.
International human rights also warned that new rules in non-Schengen borders will shift a problem to Turkey, where 2 million refugees already live.
The International Organization for Migration said earlier that more than 83,000 migrants or refugees have already crossed into Greece in 2016. EU border agency Frontex recorded over 1.83 million illegal border crossings into the European Union in 2015.
Some 200,000 refugees now are staying along shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Libya, German Welt am Sonntag reported, quoting Western intelligence sources. They are waiting for better weather conditions to cross the sea on the way to the EU.