Macedonia warns of ‘security risk’ over migrant bottleneck
Macedonia warned Sunday of the risk of incidents on its border with Greece where hundreds of migrants are stuck after new restrictions were imposed limiting passage to those fleeing conflict zones.
Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said the checkpoint at the country’s Gevgelija crossing had “become a bottleneck for migrants and refugees” where “security risks are increasing”.
Ivanov said there was a “high risk” of incidents between refugees and economic migrants, as well as between migrants and police and the local population.
More than 1,000 so-called economic migrants – mainly people from Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh – were blocked at the border crossing on Saturday.
Some carried banners calling for the border to be opened, while others read “We are sorry for France but we are not dangerous”, after the French government said some of the suspects in last week’s deadly attacks in Paris appeared to have used the migrant crisis to slip into the country unnoticed.
Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty have travelled to Greece and up through the Balkans this year, aiming to start new lives in more prosperous northern European countries, with Germany the preferred destination for many.
But on Thursday, countries along the migrant route began tightening restrictions by accepting only those fleeing war and violence in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Friday migrants who found their passage blocked sat down on railway tracks, hampering trains between Greece and Macedonia.
Ivanov said the economic migrants stuck at the border were preventing around 3,000 refugees fleeing war and conflict from continuing their journey.