Monday

22nd Jan 2018

Greece dismantles Macedonia border camp

  • People seeking refuge in mainland Europe are primarily using the Western Balkan route (Photo: Stephen Ryan / IFRC)

Authorities on Wednesday (9 December) removed some 2,300 people from a makeshift camp on the Greek side of the Macedonian border after weeks of tension.

Nationals from Algeria, Bangladesh, Morocco, Pakistan, and Somalia, among others, were bussed to former Olympic venues in Elliniko and Galatsi.

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Only those that have a good chance of obtaining asylum, such as Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans are allowed to cross the barbed-wire and chain-link fence separating the two states in their efforts to reach mainland EU.

Greek media outlet Kathimerini reports that the police operation went mostly without incident although some 30 people were temporarily detained.

The border has been one of the main flashpoints for the tens of thousands migrants heading towards northern EU member states Germany and Sweden.

The site has seen a group of seven asylum seekers sew shut their mouths in protest after being barred from entering the Balkan country.

The border shutdown is likely to push people smugglers to find alternative entry points, possibly in Albania, Montenegro, Croatia or Bosnia.

The latest move comes amid an announcement that close to 1 million people have arrived in the EU this year to seek asylum and refuge.

Around 75 percent come from war torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan, or Iraq. Around 3,550 died in the attempt.

Others have perished while in Europe. Among the more gruesome was the discovery of 71 refugees and migrants in a refrigeration truck abandoned near the Austrian border with Hungary in late August.

The arrival figures have pushed the number of registered asylum applications throughout the EU to over 1 million in the first ll months of this year.

Eurostat, the EU's statistical office, said 94 percent of those registered were first time applicants. Around a quarter are Syrians, followed by Afghani (12 percent) and Iraqis (9 percent).

Germany alone registered 965,000 people as asylum-seekers from January to November.

Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere says the pace of arrivals has since slowed over the past few days from around 10,000 to 3,000.

"This isn't yet a turnaround, but it is a good development," he said on Wednesday, reports the Associated Press.

De Maiziere, along with his French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve, want the inflows reduced even further.

The two, in a joint-letter to the EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos, had also backed an EU plan to set up a new European border and coast guard system.

Leaders will be discuss the plan, along with other migration-related issues, when they meet in Brussels next week at a summit.

EU refugee relocation grinds to near halt

Two months after agreement, only 160 refugees have been relocated from Greece and Italy, with just two EU "hotspots" out of 12 up and running.

Rights NGOs face fresh threats in EU

While ongoing crackdowns in Poland and Hungary have put the spotlight on rights groups, NGOs are now under new political and financial pressure across the EU, the Fundamental Rights Agency said.

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