THE relief agency World Vision UK has said that it is “disappointed” by the Balkan governments' decision to restrict border access to refugees from specific countries.
Macedonia began turning away “economic migrants” after a policy change two weeks ago, and is now allowing only those from recognised war zones, such as Syria, to enter the country. The move, replicating that of other Balkan nations on the same route, has triggered protests from Iranians, Pakistanis, and Moroccans who are now stranded in camps on the border.
World Vision said that all those fleeing their countries of origin to find a “safe haven” in Europe were doing so for “well-founded reasons”, and urged European leaders not to close or restrict access to their borders for refugees from the Middle East, Afghanistan, Africa, and other nations.
The director of advocacy at World Vision in Brussels, Deirdre de Burca, said that restricting the flow of refugees was “not the answer” to last month’s attacks by Islamic State (IS) in Paris. One of the IS militants is thought to have reached Belgium via Greece.
“The refugees that are trying to find safe haven in Europe are fleeing the same terror that we saw in Paris,” Ms de Burca said. “They want to give their children hope for a better and safer future.”
On Saturday, Macedonia became the latest country in Europe to build a border to prevent refugees from crossing the frontier. Clashes broke out between police and asylum-seekers as soldiers set up ten-foot-high metal poles along the southern border with Greece. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd as individuals attempted to breach the barrier.
The Anglican mission agency Us. said in a report on Tuesday that the situation was a “serious concern”. The co-ordinator at Us, Max McClellan, said that the fence was causing a “backlog of thousands” of refugees, and was putting a strain on church groups and NGOs who were “struggling” to provide food and accommodation.
In October, soldiers in Hungary finished building a barbed-wire fence along the country’s 110-mile-long border with Croatia. Refugees are able to enter Hungary only through official border crossings, where between 5000 and 8000 people are reported to be arriving daily.
On Monday, Ms De Burca called for a “united response” to the crisis, and said that members of the EU were obliged to accept refugees and asylum-seekers, and to provide “special protection and care” for refugee children.
The call comes after EU leaders met in Brussels last Sunday to agree an “initial” €3-billion payment to Turkey over two years to support the 2.2 million Syrians now living in the country.
The money is an attempt to raise living standards there, to put off those considering making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.