Macedonia Declares Emergency in Two Border Regions over Migrant Influx

Southeast Europe | August 20, 2015, Thursday // 17:39|  views

Migrants sit on rail tracks next to a member of Macedonian special police force, waiting for permission to enter the country near the southern city of Gevgelija, Macedonia, 20 August 2015. Photo EPA/BGNES

Macedonia has declared crisis situation in two border regions due to “an unprecedented flow of refugees from the Middle East” entering from Greece, MIA reported on Thursday.

Crisis situation was declared in the region of Gevgelija, in the south, and Kumanovo, in the north, opening the way for the army to join border police and help manage the migrant influx, the Macedonian news agency said.

It quoted Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski as saying that the decision to declare crisis situation was made after a surge in the number of refugees travelling along the so called Balkan route through Macedonia led the authorities to the conclusion that stepped-up controls were needed at the country’s borders.

Refugees, coming mainly from Syria and Afghanistan are crossing Macedonia’s southern border from Greece near Gevgelija and then board a train that would take them to the country’s northern border with Serbia. From there, they attempt to enter Hungary, which lies at the southern edge of the EU’s passport-free travel Schengen zone, before moving to wealthier EU nations of western and northern Europe.

By bringing in the army to the two border regions the Macedonian authorites expect to boost security there, Kotevski said. As the flow of migrants intensified in the past month, locals have been increasingly reporting theft and property trespassing, while migrants have been complaining of armed attackers stealing their belongings or pressuring them to pay for transport through Macedonia.

The move by the government in Skopje followed the arrival of a Greek government-chartered ferry at the port of Piraeus near Athens carrying some 2,500 migrants. The migrants were picked from the Greek islands of Kos, Kalymnos, Leros and Lesvos near the Turkish coast in the past few days

The flow of migrants into Greece has increased significantly to some 50,000 in the past month. Most of them have headed north to Serbia and Hungary.

Those arriving on Thursday in Piraeus were boarding buses heading to the city's main train station. Many have ended up camping in parks and squares in Athens, although most catch trains to northern Greece and from there make their way to the border with Macedonia to continue their journey north.

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Tags: army, police, border, Kumanovo, Gevgelija, islands, migrants, greece, macedonia, ferry, Piraeus, Hungary


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