4 December 2015

Since 18 November, authorities in the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) have prevented asylum seekers from certain nationalities (excluding Iraqis, Syrians and Afghans) from crossing the Greek-FYROM border. This arbitrary triage leaves, at times, thousands of people stranded at border crossings.

“Since people are desperate, the closure of the borders will not diminish their [determination] to reach their final destination, however it will only make it harder for them to do so in a safe and dignified manner. Furthermore the current circumstances increase the possibility of push-backs towards Greece which is not a good practice for the Macedonian Border Police to set in motion,” stated Martina Smilevska, President of the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA), an ECRE member.

According to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), on 25 November, over 1,500 refugees were blocked with limited assistance in Idomeni, on the Greek side of the border. Shelters and basic sanitary services in the area are limited and inadequate for long stays, due to overcrowding, rats and insufficient winter supplies.In addition, Greek and local authorities tried to restrict the access of humanitarian organisations to the border area.

During the past week, many asylum seekers experienced panic attacks and attempted self-harm. Asylum seekers prevented from crossing the border repeatedly asked the police to let them enter. On 21 November, more than 2,000 refugees blocked the railway tracks in Gevgelija. Two days later, seven refugees sewed their mouths, and around 60 refugees went on a hunger strike. Protests and tensions escalated until erupting on 26 November, when hundreds of asylum seekers tried to force their way across the razor wire, while the Macedonian police and army responded to rocks and bottles by beating asylum seekers with batons.

On 29 November, FYROM finished the construction of the wire fence between the country and Greece, built with materials provided by Hungary.

In the same week, Serbian and Croatian authorities continued to check documents and nationalities of asylum seekers in Sid. Some of non- Syrians, Afghans or Iraqis said they were physically abused, beaten, kicked and sent back to Serbia by the Croatian police.

See more detailed information in the ECRE Western Balkans News Brief 21-27 November 2015


This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 4 December 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.