8 January 2016

Winter conditions in late December have made it extremely difficult for refugees crossing the Western Balkans. Refugees arrived on foot, in the snow and the cold, to Tabanovce in the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), after having waited for hours, sometimes for a day and a night in difficult conditions, ECRE reports in the latest Western Balkan news brief, from 12 to 31 December.

Reception capacities have improved but are still insufficient. Once they crossed the border many refugees were forced to continue the journey on foot, in the snow, as they had no access to transport; a taxi strike in late December also caused refugees to wait out in the snow for 24 hours.

Refugees have been gathering at a gas station beside a bus terminal near Idomeni, on the Greek side of the Macedonian border. As they waited to cross the border, some of them spent a day and night, out in the cold and snow. Volunteers distributed food and other necessities. There is an evacuated camp near Idomeni, but it seems that refugees are not as yet allowed access to the camp by the police, and have to remain in the gas station.

Refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (SIA) are still the only ones getting access to the Western Balkan countries, as authorities deny entry to all other nationalities. Non-SIA refugees have started avoiding Idomeni, exploring new routes to enter the FYROM on foot, many of them very dangerous.

Martina Smilevska, MYLA President, remains concerned that selected border and registration practices will expose refugees at higher risks of smuggling and trafficking.

Read the full Western Balkans News Brief 12-31.12.2015.


This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 8 January 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.