2016-02-28 18:02:00

Aid Workers Concerned Over Refugee Crisis At Greece-Macedonia Border

(Vatican Radio) Aid workers have warned of a humanitarian crisis at the Greece-Macedonian border after Macedonia effectively closed its borders to most refugees. Authorities link that move to decision by other Balkan countries to cap the number of migrants allowed entry, after Austria announced it would allow maximum 3,200 migrants to enter the country. In Athens people demonstrated against Austria's move, but that has done little to ease tensions at the border.  

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

They carry banners such as open the borders. The camp in the Greece border town of Idomeni near Macedonia is rapidly becoming the symbol of Europe's failed attempt to deal with its biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.      

Reporters have seen that long lines are forming for food and sometimes scuffles break out frustrated amid human misery.

About 5,500 migrants and refugees remain here, just days after Macedonia effectively closed its border to asylum-seekers. There was relief for some since late Saturday when Macedonia agreed to allow just a few hundred Syrian and Iraqi refugees to cross into the country.

But most migrants fleeing war and poverty remain trapped. "The population here is growing," explained Stella Nanou, a spokesperson of the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR in the area. "And so are the needs of the people that remain here. This site is not made for a long stay. It was made to cover basic dignified conditions for people that wait here. So as you understand the
needs are growing and the challenges become bigger and bigger for everyone here," she added  


 The crisis has been linked to a decision by Greece's northern neighbours, along the Balkan route to Western Europe, to restrict the number of refugees they allow in each day.

In Greece, that means thousands from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are among those still living in deteriorating conditions, braving often rainy weather at the tent camp near the border and in other areas.

The European Union is pressuring Turkey to ensure that less refugees enter Greece in exchange for 3.3 billion dollars, a much awaited easing of EU visa restrictions for Turkish citizens and even sped-up EU membership talks.

But the International Organization for Migration says that despite these pledges, more than 102.500 people have crossed into Greece and more than 7,500 thousand into Italy this year alone. Last year these numbers were not reached before June, figures that were expected to be discussed at yet another EU summit on the crisis, next month.  

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